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St. Clair Twp. shooting range battle enters round two

A court hearing this week may determine if a Butler County shooting range is temporarily closed.

St. Clair Twp. trustees are trying to temporarily shut down the shooting range at Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range after safety concerns were raised by some residents.

MORE: Butler County woman has brush with stray bullet

After a bullet allegedly flew five feet from Berneice Wright’s face while she was watching television in her living room, the township passed an emergency resolution to temporarily shut down the shooting range. The incident last April took place in the 1900 block of Gephart Road, which is about one mile from the Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range.

Doug Cavin, range manager at Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range in St. Clair Twp., oversees a shooting range session. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

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Gary Sheets, the township’s solicitor, said both sides called witnesses during a hearing in July and he has at least one more to call on Tuesday. Then he expects Judge Jennifer Muench-McElfresh might render her opinion on whether the township has a right to enforce safety measures at the range.

“Whatever we do it will be in an effort to try and bring the range into compliance with the NRA standards,” Sheets said, adding it is premature to discuss any specific actions by the trustees in this regard.

RELATED: St. Clair Twp. gun battle going back to court

Lake Bailee owner Jesse Von Stein insists there is no way a bullet traveled the distance it would take to enter Wright’s home from the gun range.

“They’re going to make me do this and make me do that, when we didn’t do anything wrong,” Von Stein said. “That makes me angry.”

A patron fires an AR-15 style rifle at Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range in St. Clair Township. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Even though he doesn’t believe his range is the culprit — he has said there are always hunters in the area — he invited the Ohio Division of Wildlife out to the property to make safety suggestions. He has re-installed overhead baffles as was suggested — but not required.

Now, he said he has repeatedly told trustees if they don’t stop harassing him he’ll file his own lawsuit. He said he’ll know Tuesday what his next step will be.

“I’ve got my ducks in a row to sue St. Clair Twp. for civil rights violations,” Von Stein said. “I’ve told them three times, I said I do not want to do this, I do not want to sue you, I don’t even want to go to court, but you guys are going to have to listen and they chose not to listen ... So I’m not wasting my time and my money to have people bully me.”

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