‘A big boom went off over my head’: Butler County woman almost hit by stray bullet

A Butler County community has taken action against a local gun range after a woman said a bullet from the business came within five feet of her face as she sat inside her home.

Berneice Wright was watching television at about 2 p.m. April 12 in her living room of her home in the 1900 block of Gephart Road when she said a bullet burst through her window, shattering a glass candle holder next to her.

“This big boom went off kind up over my head and I discovered it was a bullet had come through my front window,” she said. “It hit a candle on my table which was on the other side of me, shattered it all to pieces.”

Wright’s home is about two miles from Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range, and she said this month’s close call is not the first time she and her neighbors have had bullets from the business pepper their properties.

The incident prompted St. Clair Twp. trustees to hold a special meeting last week, where they passed an emergency resolution.

“The township solicitor is hereby authorized and directed to bring legal action on behalf of the township against Lake Bailee in order to cause the firing ranges at Lake Bailee to be permanently enjoined from further use and operation as a firing range until all such range(s) at Lake Bailee can contain all projectiles/bullets fired at such range,” the resolution reads.

That action angered Jesse VonStein, the shooting range’s owner, who denied his establishment was the culprit in Wright’s close call, especially since no one was shooting a rifle that afternoon.

“They’re going to make me do this and make me do that, when we didn’t do anything wrong in the first damn place,” he said. “That makes me angry.”

VonStein told the Journal-News he went to Wright’s house after the incident and examined the bullet hole, then did some homework measuring distance and elevations of his range, her house, and a berm between the two. He determined that even if someone was using a rifle, they couldn’t have hit Wright’s window.

The sheriff’s deputy who responded to the incident was told the last person using the gun range was shooting a revolver, according to a police report. While at the gun range, the deputy could hear shooting in the distance, according to the report.

VonStein said shots often ring out from the nearby woods — not just his gun range — and he can’t be held responsible for that.

“We run a tight range, there’s range officers there. I teach concealed carry, combative firearms, women’s self defense, in-home defense,” he said, adding that he plans to contact his attorney about the township’s resolution.

“This is not a fly-by-night operation and safety matters are A-number-one,” he said.

St. Clair Twp. Solicitor Gary Sheets said he is continuing to research the issue.

“I have not as yet been able to find a criminal statute which makes it an offense to operate a firing range which is incapable of capturing all projectiles fired from that location,” he said.

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