Granby Bow and Gun Club says stray bullets that hit homes in Belchertown did not come from its range

The Granby Bow and Gun Club on Chicopee Street in Granby.

The Granby Bow and Gun Club on Chicopee Street in Granby. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By EMILEE KELIN

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2024 9:24 PM

BELCHERTOWN — The president of the Granby Bow and Gun Club insists that stray bullets that hit two homes and a shed in the Turkey Hill area of town did not originate from the club’s long range.

Club President Ryan Downing read a statement at the beginning of the April 29 Belchertown Select Board meeting, describing the club’s compliance with police and their own future investigations of the incidents, including evaluations from forensic ballistic experts.

The club’s preliminary investigations conclude the club was not the source of the bullets, he said.

“The club has cooperated with the police-led investigation. It has provided the district attorney with all information requested concerning the identity of anyone who was at the club property on the date of the March 29, 2024 incident, and we understand that the police investigators have been methodically contacting these individuals,” Downing read to the board.

Four stray bullets have hit homes on Mountain View Drive in the past year, shattering two glass doors and hitting one shed. The Northwestern district attorney’s office, with assistance from Belchertown police and State Police, continues to investigate all bullet incidents on Turkey Hill, specifically a bullet that hit a back sliding glass door on March 29 and two bullets that hit a shed on April 4.

Turkey Hill residents believe the bullets originated from Granby Bow and Gun Club’s 1,000-yard range, located roughly a mile away from the neighborhood, because of the direction of the bullets and the 3,000-meter range of the weapons used. Seventeen of those residents attended an April 15 Select Board meeting to voice their fears about the bullets coming into their neighborhood and to ask the board to work in tandem with Granby to expedite the investigation.

Upon hearing what the gun club president had to say this week, many of the residents have not swayed from their original request: a safety audit of the club by an independent ballistics expert.

The club’s statement, offer

In his statement on April 29, Downing sent letters to the residents whose homes were hit by stray bullets, requesting that the club be allowed to bring ballistics experts Lucien C. “Luke” Haag and Eric M. Warren to investigate the sites of impact.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

State auditor: UMass violated law in axing Advancement office last year
Valley Bounty: Fibers for farmers: Western Massachusetts Fibershed turns local ‘throw away’ wool into fertilizer pellets
Budget rift emerges at Granby TM: Finance Committee at odds with School, Fire departments
With NCAA settlement, sea change comingfor UMass athletics
Judge denies Rintala’s motion to reduce prison sentence
More music, bigger stages: In new hands, Green River Festival returns next weekend with headliners CAKE, Fleet Foxes and Gregory Alan Isakov

Andrew Rachlin, a resident whose front glass door was shattered by a bullet last year, said he and his wife, Christine Catania-Rachlin, have yet to receive a letter.

A letter was also sent to the police to assess the bullets, and two Freedom of Information Act requests were issued to access any communication from residents about the stray bullets and a copy of the police report from the bullet incident last June.

Downing said that if residents provide the club with dates for the two ballistics experts to examine the sites, the club will prohibit individual rifle shooting for the next two months as a courtesy. However, competitive rifle shooting and rifle training sessions will continue as scheduled because these events are monitored by range safety officers and must abide by extensive range safety and match rules.

“As part of this proposal, the club would also agree to inform the homeowners and the town at least a week in advance of the date and time of any formal events involving rifle shooting, and keep any internal records of shooters, fire arms, the range safety officers, etc. that are participating in those events,” Downing said.

Toward the end of the statement, Downing pointed out that the gun club has offered targets out to 1,000 yards while coexisting with the Mountain View Drive neighborhood throughout its history.

“We appreciate the town of Belchertown being extremely measured and careful in responding to the stray bullet claims,” Downing said. “It is essential to allow the police investigation and a proper investigation by the qualified experts to proceed and be concluded without a baseless rush to judgment.”

Resident responds

Mountain View resident Jeffery Sajdak counters that even though the club has offered 1,000-yard targets to its members for some time, it has only been in the last year or so that members were able to practice from that distance. That timing coincides with when the stray bullets entered the nearby neighborhoods, he said.

Additionally, Sajdak, who found two bullet holes in his shed on April 4, said the bullet incident on March 29 occurred at the same time as a five-day sniper training workshop. He said he found a post on an event organizer’s Facebook page that said the workshop was “faced with not the best weather conditions,” including 18 mph winds.

“When you look at the elevation of the range and the elevation of our homes, the distance between the two, the surface danger zone (the predicted area a bullet can travel), the design of the range and the firepower that they have there, it is very possible that the bullets are coming from the gun club,” Sajdak said. “That’s not right. There should be zero possibility.”

Sajdak and Rachlin have yet to receive a letter from the gun club. The homeowners said once they have the letters in hand, they will discuss with the other people on the block about whether to grant the club’s request.

Both Sajdak and Rachlin expressed interest in working with the club to find a solution, and do not wish to shut the organization down. Yet neither want the club to conduct its own investigations.

“I would hope they are now willing to have the third-party safety evaluation done to determine the cone of danger that is in line with the ranges,” Rachlin said in an email. “After that is completed, we can talk about having their experts have access to determine whatever they will try to say. We look forward to the gun club assisting and allowing this for transparency of safety.”

While Select Board members could not ask questions or respond to the statement from the gun club president, Select Board Chair Ed Boscher acknowledged the Granby Bow and Gun Club voluntarily showed up to the meeting to present their side, and requested the club keep in contact with Town Administrator Steve Williams for further questions and conversations.

“This is purely about safety. It’s about ensuring that there’s no way, whether it’s accidental or on purpose, that a bullet can leave the Granby Bow and Gun Club’s property,” Sajdak said.

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.