In March 5 IssueBy Derek AaronNews-Register Editor
What are the odds? That question has been thrown around a lot over the past week after a stray bullet fired from a rifle passed through the shingled roof, insulation and acoustic ceiling at Lawless Welding in Russell Springs, before hitting the tile floor, chipping it and ricocheting toward the desks just feet away from the three folks working in the office area.
The incident occurred last Thursday around 10:30 a.m., according to those present in the office, Owner Gene Smith, Sales Manager Denise Lawter and Office Manager Janie McFarland.
McFarland, who was in her office apart from the main office likened the sound to a picture frame falling off the wall and breaking.
"We were all looking around on the floor to see what it was," McFarland said. "You know it is hard to see a bullet."
Smith said to him it sounded like someone hitting a hard surface with a hammer. Smith even saw the bullet roll across the floor once it made contact and before knowing what it was told the other ladies in the office it looked like a bullet … little did he know it was.
"Finally we got down on our hands and knees and found it under the desk over there," McFarland said. "It was still warm," Lawter added.
The bullet's caliber has not been 100 percent identified yet but appears to be from a .308 Winchester round, according to police.
"You go to work and you don't think about getting shot at in your office," McFarland said. "They must've shot it pretty high up."
Smith said Russell Springs Police Chief Joseph M. Irvin told him that a 30-30 or .308 shot straight up into the air could travel as far as seven miles up into the air before hitting the top of its trajectory and then heading down.
"That is hard to believe straight up," Smith said. "But that is 35,000 feet."
Irvin said it was untelling how far away the weapon was fired for it to enter the building the way it did.
"It was a high rate of speed enough to go through that roof but bullet-wise it was going slow," Irvin said. "Yes it was moving fast … but it could've been a lot worse." Irvin said that despite the bullet speed not being extremely fast, if the bullet did happen to hit someone, major injury or even death could have been a possibility.
"I don't know how anybody could fire a weapon into the air and not have great confidence in where that bullet is going to come to rest," Irvin said. "It really is an odd thing and it is amazing it doesn't happen more often."
He said this was the first such incident like this he can recall in his time with the police department.
"You just never get calls like that," Irvin said. "I'd like to know who fired it and why but I doubt you'll ever get anyone to fess up to it. In fact, it may have gotten back to them already and they're scared to death now."
Irvin said he believes the shot came from somewhere directly behind the Lawless Welding building, but as to how far out, he may never know unless someone comes forward.
Back at Lawless Welding, McFarland said even though the bullet had lost some of its velocity on its downward path, it was falling at such a speed that she, too, worried about the major damage that could've been done by the bullet had it hit someone.
"It could've bounced back up and hit someone, too," McFarland said. "It was still pointed and hadn't mushroomed. The tip of it was curled over just a bit where it hit the tile floor."
Smith said he hopes more than anything that this incident will help teach firearm safety to those who handle weapons.
"I don't know of anyone who has ever had a round fall close to them," he said. "The fact that the person who did this was nowhere close to us and never thought about hitting us and never would've deliberately done this in a million years but to shoot up in the air like that was not very responsible," McFarland added.
Smith said by looking at the angle the bullet entered the ceiling he thought the bullet came from a 1-2 mile radius.
Lawter said she was glad the bullet didn't enter the nearby Little Learning Center Daycare where it could have possibly hit a child.
"We were very blessed," McFarland said. "Any shots that fired into the air have to come down somewhere and this just goes to show that there should never be any shots fired into the air," Smith added.
"What I can't believe is that it hit it with such velocity that it made the bullet obround," he said.
Smith said it was also raining at the time the bullet came through the roof.
"No one would have been out target practicing I don't think," he said. "It wasn't the type of morning you'd be doing that. This person (who fired the rifle) may have a hole in their roof. They might have been cleaning their gun inside their home."
Lawter said after the police department showed up and conducted their investigation, the "what ifs" began going through her head. She even had to take a short break from work that day to deal with her emotions following the incident.
"What if that had come straight?" she asked. "That is just eight feet away."
While the incident was scary and one to remember, the crew at Lawless Welding is now trying to make light of the matter, they said.
The office staff said folks had been joking with them about whether it was safe or not to enter the building or if they needed to wear a hard hat inside.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to start paying them hazardous duty pay," Smith joked.
Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to remember the following firearm safety tips:
o Know your target and what is beyond.
o Be sure the gun is safe to operate.
o Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting.
o Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
o Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
o Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.