Harvey Mayor, Park District Spar Over Move To Close Gun Range
Updated 05/29/14 – 1:10 p.m.
HARVEY, Ill. (CBS) – Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg has vowed to shut down a controversial gun range, claiming there have been complaints about stray bullets landing in yards where children play, but the park district — which owns the land — called the move a political stunt.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg issued an executive order mandating the gun range at 15300 S. Campbell be shut down. His office said, for more than five years, neighbors have complained they fear being struck by stray bullets, after finding bullets and casings in their yards.
Kellogg was at the range late Thursday morning when a “cease and desist” order was posted at the entrance gate.
“This has created a clear and present danger to the residents,” he said.
At the most recent city council meeting, residents expressed anger more has not been done, saying children were outside playing when stray bullets hit their homes.
Officials said the range failed to comply with public safety ordinances.
The property where the gun range is located is owned by the Harvey Park District, and it is leased to a private security firm which operates the gun range.
Around 11 a.m., city administrators posted a yellow sign on the gate of the gun range, saying the facility’s license had been revoked and the range could not open “until further notice.”
However, the park district claimed the shutdown was politically motivated, and not truly in spirit with public safety. The district said the range was inspected in January, and the tenants were in compliance.
An attorney for the district said it might go to court to fight the shutdown.
Robert Aguilar Jr., who lives in a trailer park near the gun range, said he fears for his 2-year-old daughter’s life, because of stray bullets that regularly land in yards near the range.
“You could sit out here and you hear the ricochetings of the bullets; flying through the air; hitting the trees,” he said.
He said he’s seen bullet holes in his house, and he’s convinced they came from the gun range, because it’s a quiet neighborhood.
“We’re getting fed up already. We’re getting tired. People are getting scared. Kids don’t want to come out and play,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar believes inexperienced shooters are responsible for stray bullets hitting his home. He said he filed a police report in January, after the windows of his mobile home were shattered. At a city council meeting on Tuesday, Aguilar and several neighbors demanded Kellogg close the gun range.
Vaughan Dunlap, training coordinator for the range, disputed neighbors’ claims about stray bullets.
“This is a very high-crime area. There are gunshots in the neighborhood all the time,” he said.
Rick Hammond, the park district’s attorney, insisted the gun range has not caused any problems.
“There’s absolutely no problems. If there were problems, I think that it would be reflected by the law enforcement agents that are actually using this. The Illinois State Police is one of the tenants,” he said. “I can tell you that if there are any gun holes in property anywhere around the city of Harvey, that it does not come from this gun range.”
Harvey Park District Vice President Anthony McCaskill noted next year is an election year for Harvey, and he’s running against Kellogg.
“I think that, because all the bad press that Harvey’s been getting, that this is some way of trying to spin all of the negative press,” he said. “I think it also has to do with me being a candidate for mayor.”
He said there have been no formal complaints to the park district, even though multiple police reports have been filed.
Previous efforts to close the gun range have been halted by the courts, but Kellogg said he’s taking the situation into his own hands because stray bullets have continued to land on properties where children play.
Kellogg’s office has said the range will remain closed at least until a public hearing on Friday, June 6.