Bullets from Double H Gun Club, at 1057 Hwy. 182 W., have been crossing over Old West Point Road and onto Mike Lavender's property. Lavender visited the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors hoping to see the range closed down. Supervisors voted to have Board Attorney Tim Hudson see what legal action the county can take moving forward. Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff
June 18, 2019 10:04:12 AM
With photographs of bullet holes in his deer stand in-hand, Mike Lavender spoke to the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday morning about patrons of a privately owned shooting range firing bullets on his property.
Lavender reached out to supervisors in an effort to have the range closed down. He said bullets have hit his house, deer stand and landed in a nearby lake where his family swims. His property connects with Double H Gun Club, which is located at 1057 Hwy. 182 W. west of Columbus. Double H is a private membership club with a handgun range, rifle ranges of 100 and 800 yards, and a shotgun range.
"They are shooting right toward me," Lavender said. "I've got two (deer hunting) shooting houses on the (property) line. They intentionally shot my shooting house five times. If I had been in it, I may not be talking to you today. I would like to see it shut down until we can see what kind of safety can be done. I don't know how long that would take. Right now, no one has gotten hurt."
Supervisors unanimously voted to have board attorney Tim Hudson see what legal action the county could take. Hudson told supervisors, after looking at a map of the shooting range and Lavender's property, the county has a case.
Hudson does not think, however, the damage is intentional.
"I don't think anybody alleges this is intentional, (but) it's accidental or carelessness," Hudson said. "For (his property) to be hit by a bullet, it would have to go over Old West Point Road, a public road. That potentially gives the county some interest because that's a well-traveled road those bullets are going across."
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, in whose district the gun club property sits, wanted to close the range Monday morning before eventually voting with fellow supervisors to first allow Hudson to investigate.
"I think we need to file an injunction immediately and find some remedy for this issue," Brooks told supervisors.
After the meeting, Brooks elaborated on the public danger he feels the gun club presents.
"The bullets are going over Old West Point Road; you really can't tolerate that," Brooks said. "It could be you or me just driving down the road. When you talk about shooting high-powered rifles with the kind of distance they have, I would have been for shutting it down (Monday), until we can find some remedy. Those people that like to shoot are well in their right to have a shooting range but not at the risk of causing bodily harm."
Board President Harry Sanders, acknowledging Brooks' point, went a step further. Now that supervisors know the danger, he said, the county could be held liable if someone is injured by a bullet shot from the range.
"The county's involvement is if bullets are crossing our county roads, which they are crossing Old West Point Road," Sanders said. "It's against the law. Somebody could be riding down our road, all of sudden here comes a bullet and it hits their car. It could kill them. Since we've been put on notice somebody is doing this, to protect ourselves and make sure we're not liable, we gotta make sure there's no bullets shooting across our county roads."
Double H Gun Club owner, Bubba Britt, told The Dispatch he received a complaint from a private citizen, and the club is taking measures to resolve the issue. He said bullets from the shooting range are hitting the ground, ricocheting and going over Old West Point Road. Building a berm, or artificial ridge, should contain the projectiles, he said.
"When we discovered that was happening, (we started construction)," Britt said. "We are still in the process of building (the berm)."
Britt did not indicate when construction started or when it would be completed.
Brooks said he is glad to see the club has started to remedy the situation but still feels the range should close down in the meantime.
Hudson said he had not reached out to Britt yet.
"This is something that needs to be corrected very quickly," Hudson said. "I want to see (Britt's) position and let him respond and then take the steps that are necessary. I really don't think there ought to be any shooting out there until he completes his construction. A bullet could cause irreparable harm."
The board unanimously appointed board attorney Hudson as interim county prosecutor. The interim appointment comes about a month after interim prosecutor Hal McClanahan turned in his letter of resignation.
McClanahan, who was appointed after former county prosecutor Allison Kizer ran unopposed for county judge, said in his letter to the board of supervisors and County Administrator Ralph Billingsley the position was not "a part-time job" as it was advertised, and was interfering with his private practice. His last day will be June 30.
The county prosecutor -- who argues the county's cases in justice court -- is an elected position. In the past, the county prosecutor has been appointed by the supervisors to also serve as the county prosecutor in youth court.
Splitting the duties, the board also appointed an interim juvenile prosecutor Mark Jackson from Oktibbeha County. Hudson will handle justice and county court while Jackson will handle youth court.
Jackson and Hudson will split the county prosecutor's salary of $45,700. Both Hudson and Jackson will start their interim roles July 1.
Attorneys Corky Smith, Steve Wallace and William Starks are all running to become full-time county prosecutor. The winner of this year's election will take office in January.
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