Investigation underway after stray bullet hits Hawaii Kai home

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A stray bullet went through a Hawaii Kai home, right into the living room.

The family found the bullet lodged in the wall above the patio door.

A woman and her grandson were in the house when it happened back in March.

Resident Lyn Conway said, “all of a sudden, we heard a bang that was like a huge piece of furniture falling. That’s what it sounded like.”

She didn’t know what caused it until “my grandson came and he said, ‘Grandma, look at the hole in the wall.'”

Then it all started lining up. The bullet entered through the dining room wall, hit the dining table, ricocheted and lodged itself in the wall in the living room.

“It was really scary to know that I was sitting here until 15 minutes before the bullet came through, and my grandson was playing with the toys right over there,” Conway said. “All of a sudden, my husband and I just started shaking about what could have happened.”

The family called Honolulu police and a ballistics team was sent to investigate. Landlord Tim Kwock spoke with the detective in charge.

“She said that they’re going to have to interview people at the gun range to see if any participant there saw someone shooting a weapon into the air,” he told KHON2.

A spokeswoman with the Honolulu Police Department says the case remains open, but it’s difficult to determine if the bullet came from nearby Koko Head Shooting Complex, where there have been safety concerns in the past.

Is it even possible? The shooting range is two miles away from the house, and the bullet would have had to go over Koko Head which is about 1,200 feet high.

Harvey Gerwig, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association, says it’s possible.

“A high-powered rifle can go two miles,” he said.

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We looked through our own archives and found similar stray-bullet incidents in the same area.

In 2013, a bullet went through a window at a home in Hawaii Kai’s Koko Villas. In another case, a bullet landed on a car. While it was never determined where the bullets came from, the city shut down the range temporarily.

It spent $94,000 on safety improvements in December 2013 and reopened the facility a month later.

Crews added sand and dirt in the berm behind the targets to help absorb bullets. An “eyebrow” cover was installed, which is essentially an awning meant to discourage shooters to fire at a high angle. All targets beyond 100 yards were eliminated.

But Gerwig says it wasn’t enough.

The Hawaii Rifle Association actually brought in a national expert to give some tips on how to make the firing range safer, but we’re told the city never followed those suggestions.

Gerwig says the expert suggested putting clay-like dirt instead of sand, which erodes away. He says soft dirt stays in place and absorbs the bullets better.

The expert also recommended more signage. There are signs explaining the rules, but Gerwig says they need to be more explicit.

“There needs to be standardized safety procedures sign-wise, then the range masters can follow and insist and if somebody doesn’t obey, they need to be kicked off right now,” Gerwig said.

We’ve been trying to get the city to talk to us on camera and explain why none of those improvements were made. We started asking questions on Monday and each time, a spokesman said no one was available.

We also wanted to know the safety protocols at the range. How many workers are making sure everyone’s following the rules, and what happens when they don’t?

Off-camera, the range master said he and one or two range officers are keeping track. A shooter is given one warning for a violation. After that, he or she is thrown out. How often does it happen? He said rarely.

The city sent a statement on behalf of Jeanne Ishikawa, deputy director, Department of Parks and Recreation:

“Public safety and proper use of our park facilities are the highest priorities for the Department of Parks and Recreation. There are safety procedures and facility features in place to ensure the secure and legal use of firearms at the Koko Head Shooting Complex. In addition, the staff there are very diligent in enforcing safety protocol concerning all operations at the complex.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is aware of this particular stray bullet incident. It is our understanding that a thorough investigation conducted by the Honolulu Police Department was unable to determine the source of that bullet. We cooperated fully in that investigation. That included providing the log of shooters using that facility to investigators.”

We asked HPD if there have been any other reports of a possible stray bullet from the range since the improvements were made in 2013, but we’re still waiting for a response.

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