The following article was published in The Dallas Morning News,9/3/2010
Wounded Rowlett man alleges Garland gun range responsible
Rowlett police called it a "mysterious shooting."
Victim Michael Domin believes he knows the source. Not the shooter, but the source.
Domin lives 1.2 miles from the Garland Public Shooting Range. On Thursday, an attorney acting on Domin's behalf filed a lawsuit against the range.
The filing pits a new neighborhood against a business that existed long before urban build-out became an issue in northeast Dallas County.
In Domin's case, gun experts confirm that a rifle misfire from the range could indeed have sailed over the range's protective berms and the Castle Drive Landfill and down into his neighborhood. In addition to the landfill, there's a creek bed, a field and an undeveloped wooded area between the victim's home and the range.
And while the police investigation concluded that the bullet was on a downward trajectory when it struck, "there is no actual evidence that would support the fact that the bullet was fired from the range," Rowlett police spokesman John Ellison said Thursday.
Domin spent 10 days in a hospital and racked up nearly $200,000 in medical bills after the midday June 12 incident – and still has the bullet in his back.
"I'm not the same as I used to be," he said. "I get tired fast and can't work as hard as I used to. I still have pain in stomach and in my back and still trying to catch up financially."
He is requesting that the range prohibit longer-distance ammunition and that it install side berms, overhead baffles and specialized safety walls. It is estimated the safety features could cost $500,000.
Neighbors who may not have realized it when their homes were built in 2007 have become conscious of the fact that they're potentially in the line of fire. Thien Phuoc Phan answered a query from Aaron Herbert, Domin's attorney, to say he was scraped by a stray bullet while riding a bicycle in the area in March.
"If the range is surrounded by residential homes, it should now be discontinued because of hazards associated with it," Phan said.
But the Garland Public Shooting Range predates its neighbors. It opened in 1969, and when it was annexed into the city in 1971, the use of the property was grandfathered.
Domin said he did not know about the gun range when he moved into the house with his wife and five children in July 2009. He said that so long as the bullets remain on the range, it is not a problem.
"As far as bullets leaving the range, it's not acceptable," he said. "It could have been one of my kids. Basically our kids haven't used our backyard since this has happened. We haven't let them go back there."
Garland's Public Safety Committee brought up the range as an item of discussion in late 2007 and found there were no violations of the city's noise ordinance and no contamination of nearby Rowlett Creek. No action was taken.
Garland Council Member Doug Athas said while he hears noise complaints, the range also has a solid support base among its clientele.
Any changes at the range may, in fact, be instigated by the county. It plans to widen Pleasant Valley Road next year, and the widening will take the road about 12 to 20 feet above the range's existing gate and parking lot. A new exit and changes to the parking area and location of shooting stands might follow, but preliminary thought is that the range will remain open.
In asking Wednesday for a voluntary cease-and-desist on long-distance shooting operations, Herbert said that "bullets originating from GPSR have clearly struck and damaged Garland Power & Light controlled power lines." Domin's legal team says that proves bullets are flying off the range. But GP&L said Thursday that it had performed nothing other than routine maintenance in the area.
"Currently, we don't have an issue with the gun range," utility spokeswoman Elizabeth Kimbrough said. "We've never had an outage from it, and it's not impacting service."
Attempts to contact the gun range's owner Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Alan Lyberger, a licensed gunsmith for more than a decade, was a frequent customer when he lived a half-mile away off Pleasant Valley Road.
"Is it world-class? No. But it is typical for Texas," Lyberger said. "As far as safety goes, the berms are just about like I've seen anywhere else. They're not less safe than any other gun range. The people I dealt with when I was there were very nice, knowledgeable and helpful."