I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Visit to the Pit

A view from the shooting stations at the bottom of the pit off of Longleaf Drive, facing Northwest November 19,2017

After a series of complaints by neighbors regarding bullets being found in and around their property (s)--I wrote a series of blog entries that were picked up and reported on by local media.

Folks were finding bullets and bullet holes in their fences, cars, and in the bottom of their pools.

But where were/are the bullets coming from and who is firing the shots?

This is the million dollar question that has yet to be fully answered.

What we do know is that there is some target shooting happening at the old borrow pit owned by Eager Beaver. Primarily it is the owner of the property, his friends, family, and some members of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Yesterday afternoon, the owner of the pit, H.C. Jacques, texted me and asked if I wanted to come out to the pit and see the layout and what has been going on.  My answer was yes and so yesterday I made a visit to the pit.

A view to the targets from the 100 yard rifle stations at the pit  November 19, 2017

After opening the gate, driving through, and then re-closing it behind me, I drove down the paved road about a quarter of a mile to a clearing at the bottom of the pit.  A trailer was on my left, a large warehouse type structure was on my right, and several vehicles were parked directly ahead of me.  I pulled over, parked and was greeted in short order by Mr. Jacques, a military veteran, small business owner, and shooting enthusiast.  After we shook hands and said hello, we got down to the matter at hand that concerns both he and I.

"I get it, I know the neighbors are concerned and I get that.  But we are not the source of the bullets that are being found in the neighborhoods up on Wymart" Mr. Jacques stated flatly.  "We are safe down here, we know how to properly handle our weapons and we are focused on safety." he continued. "We are also at least 20 feet down in a pit, below the level of the houses--and we are shooting down on the targets--so how could it be our bullets hitting these structures?" he asked. "I'm told that the bullet hole in the car from the news was from a .45--and nobody down here shoots a .45 except me.  And I also heard that what was found in the pool was shell casings--not bullets--which means someone was firing their guns up there--that is the only way casings would be there" He continued.

As we walked down further into the pit, he showed me where they conduct their target practice.  "There is where we shoot.  that table there is 100 yards (from the target), the one back behind us is 200 yards, and the one back there up on that knoll is 400 yards.  But that is where we are shooting, that direction."

"What is beyond that target area, that berm where you have the targets?"  I asked him.  "11 acres of woods." was Jacques' reply.

Aerial View of the shooting area from Google Earth (targets as depicted larger than actual so they can be seen on map)

On my left was a series of berms, and as we walked over that direction-- I asked if those were ever used for practice.  "Sometimes we set up targets over there, but we haven't lately.  That area is for pistols, 9MM.  But we don't use that area anymore"  he stated.

As we walked back toward the main rifle target berm, he pointed out some spent 9MM casings as well as shotgun shell casings.  "We do some trap-shooting down here as well sometimes, but that type of shot is not going out of our property" He continued.

While I was talking with Mr. Jacques, he received a phone call from a member of the Sheriff's Office Swat Team.  They spoke for a moment and then the call ended.  "They came in 4th place in an

 international sharp-shooting competition--that's pretty good!"  he stated.  I agreed.

As we concluded the visit--he reiterated his concerns about safety.  "I come down here, families come down here, we camp, we play air-soft, and we like to come here and relax.  We're not going to do anything unsafe.  And nobody is shooting down here if I'm not here or if the ECSO swat member who has a key is not down here" he assured me.  "Those bullets are coming from other locations--sometimes we are down here and we will here bursts of gunfire coming from all around us--when nobody is firing from the pit."

I thanked him for showing me around and taking time to discuss the matter with me.  I expressed my continuing concern about the bullets being found in properties around the pit.

I certainly hope no more bullets end up whizzing through yards and properties of nearby residents.

I hope to God that nobody gets shot and that whomever it is that is shooting into neighborhoods is caught.

1 comment:

Mike McCormack said...

Commissioner, by your diagram the orange tagged area leads directly to the Wymart road area. The claim being they don't use that target anymore(9mm). According to Google Maps the distance from the target area to the house on the east side of Wymart is only 750 ft. approximately. Was this the general area of where the homeowners were finding bullets? I'm no ballistic expert and realize the place is pit with earthen berms but mistakes have been made before. Another question is does the Sheriff have any other locations available to him to practice at? If so, maybe he should be using those, assuming they are not in another neighborhood. The land owner is granted the right to shoot on his property and can't be told not to, but our Sheriff should not be using this pit for practice simply because of the proximity to housing. And if there really is no way the bullets can be coming from this pit, then the Sheriif has no excuse for not trying to determine who is illegally firing weapons and causing the issues for the residents.