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Gun range suit: Vandalia cop ‘retreated’ as bullets whizzed overhead

A Vandalia police officer “retreated behind” his cruiser when responding to a call last week over errant bullets from the Miami Valley Shooting Grounds landing on a neighboring business’ property, according to a police report.

The officer’s superior said it “was obvious … that the shooters were a threat to public safety and not in compliance with the permit” the police chief issued in 2007, according to the report.

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Vandalia police responded Sept. 7 to the Miami Valley Shooting Range after neighbor Jamie Spencer told officers bullets were being fired onto the property of a business on the 7300 block of Johnson Station.

Spencer filed a lawsuit against the range and its owner, Dana Tackett, the next day.

The officer that responded to the neighboring business said he had to retreat behind his cruiser when a bullet came too close, and his supervisor said the pair “heard several rounds whiz by us while we were up there.”

“We both knew it was not safe where we were, so we went back down the hill,” wrote Sgt. Todd Flynn.

According to the police report, the permit issued to the shooting grounds restricts shooters to firing “in a direction from east to west perpendicular to and using as a backstop the 50 foot hill on the western edge of the property.” But the officer on scene saw “at least six people shooting in a southbound direction” and “another range facing northbound with people shooting northbound too.”

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Tackett told police “I did not know they were shooting from these ranges back here,” and said he would cease fire until the range issues are resolved with the city, according to the report.

Spencer’s lawsuit alleges bullets from the outdoor shooting range are landing on his property.

“It’s a terrible feeling,” Spencer said in an interview. “When you hear it whistle over you, you know it must be close.”

Spencer’s ranch is located at 7848 Brown School Road. The gun range, located on two parcels — 7771 and 7751 Cassel Road, with a mailing address of 7751 Johnson Station Road — is separated from the ranch by railroad tracks.

Spencer asks the court to stop the shooting grounds from operating the gun range until the range can demonstrate to the court the range “can and will be maintained and operated such that bullets do not exit the” range property.

Spencer also requests the range pay him $25,000 “or an amount to be determined at trial, including attorney’s fees and ‘clean-up’ costs…,” according to the lawsuit.

Tackett said he believes Spencer is framing him, and there is no way bullets from his range could end up on Spencer’s ranch. He declined further comment.

The standoff between the neighbors has brewed for months, according to public records obtained by this news organization, including eight 911 calls since September 2016.

“This is going to be a long-term battle with them,” Spencer told a 911 dispatcher in March.

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Last month, Spencer was trespassed from the shooting grounds, according to police records. Several days later, on Aug. 27, Spencer again reported an issue where a woman on his property heard “whistling through the trees above her,” according to the records. The Vandalia officer then went to the shooting grounds.

“I went to the rifle range area, where every booth was filled with somebody shooting,” the officer wrote. “I then asked everybody in the booths where the range officer is. Multiple people told me there is none and said he left a few minutes ago.” An employee at the range told the officer the problem would be “addressed immediately,” the officer wrote.

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