Hunter's bullet strikes Lanexa home, triggers New Kent County to review codes

By Amy Jo Martin, amartin@tidewaterreview.com

3:24 PM EST, January 6, 2014


NEW KENT – A stray bullet entering a Lanexa home on Nov. 30 has triggered a review of the several parts of the county code in New Kent.

"My wife was putting up the Christmas tree around 9 a.m. in the great room when a bullet came through the top of the wall, above the widow, and the pellet fell to the floor," said Tyrone Johnson, of 7141 Sertoma Drive.

Johnson immediately called the New Kent Sheriff's Office. Deputies found four hunters from Newport News on the adjacent property on Cooks Mill Road.

According to Johnson, the property owner, a man from Newport News, had given the men permission to hunt on his land, two five-acre lots. He told Johnson, however, that he only allowed two hunters at a time on his property and would work to resolve the matter.

After further investigation, it was discovered that Johnsons' home had been struck by buckshot, which according to Johnson, does not travel more than 100 yards.

"That makes me nervous. If buckshot doesn't travel more than 100 yards, then he was shooting significantly closer than 100 yards away from my home," he said.

Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VGDIF) Sgt. Randy Hickman and Officer Phillip Baker took over the investigation and found that only one of the hunters used buckshot.

The hunter's identity has not been released because charges were not filed against him.

"[The hunter] told me that he didn't see my house when he was shooting," Johnson said. "Only by the grace of God did tragedy not enter my house."

According to Johnson, the estimated damage is $1,300. Baker said the hunter indicated that he would contact the homeowner to work out restitution of the damages.

Soon after the shooting, Johnson contacted New Kent County District 3 Board of Supervisor member Jimmy Burrell, who then reported the incident to County Administrator Rodney Hathaway.

Hathaway said in a phone interview that he was looking into the report, as well as several parts of the county code.

"Mr. Burrell has asked staff to focus on the issue," Hathaway said.

"We are taking our time to complete a comprehensive analysis of the incident and the county's current regulations. We are looking at the state code and seeing what it allows," he added.

"Our goal is to have any necessary code changes completed by the next deer hunting season in November."

Currently, the area near the Johnsons' home, including Cooks Mill Road and Sertoma Drive, is zoned A-1 (Agricultural), despite the presence of six or seven homes.

Johnson insists that "hunting should not be allowed in residential areas with five-acre lots," but Hathaway said putting firearms regulations on A-1-zoned properties can be tricky.

"We may look into making the development a residential subdivision, but that will be tough to do with the A-1 zoning," Hathaway said.

When contacted on Jan. 3, Commonwealth's Attorney Linwood Gregory and County Attorney Michele Gowdy said they were unaware of the shooting incident.

"I don't know anything about it, so I can't really comment on it or how it reflects county code," Gowdy said in a phone interview.

"I'm not aware of the situation," echoed Gregory in a separate phone interview.

The Johnson's home has been struck by a bullet before.

Three months prior to this incident, someone target shooting on the same Cooks Mill Road property struck the backside of the Johnsons' residence.

During the same month, a bullet went through another Lanexa home near Cooks Mill Road.

The sheriff's office reported that the bullet, which struck an upstairs spare bedroom, was most likely caused by celebratory fire, or firing into the air.

No one was injured in either incident.

Johnson hopes that over the next few months, his concerns will be taken seriously and changes will be made to the county's ordinances.

"The A-1 zoning ordinance should be changed and we should stop people from hunting up there," he said.

"My wife was very traumatized from the shooting, and we don't want this to happen again to anyone else."

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.