WATCH: Potter County Commission to regulate outdoor gun ranges after Deputies nearly hit in body cam video

I-Team Special Reports

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Potter County Commission voted unanimously in the interest of public safety on Monday to regulate certain outdoor sport shooting ranges.

That action comes after the Potter County Assistant Attorney presented body camera footage from a Potter County Sheriff’s Deputy that appeared to show bullets escaping from a gun range and whizzing nearby.

Potter County Assistant Attorney, Tad Fowler, said this regulation passed by the commission affects outdoor sport shooting ranges in the county generally, but one stands out.

“If we have clear and convincing evidence that bullets are escaping from any outdoor shooting range in the county, then this order enables the court to issue a second order that shooting be discontinued until that situation is remedied,” Fowler said. “There’s only one sport shooting range right now that we’re aware of that, that this regulation applies to and that’s in northeast Amarillo, just outside the city limits.”

Fowler said that is the rifle range at Smith & Son Armory shooting complex on Echo Street.

Fowler presented the body cam evidence below—in commissioners court on Monday, June 8. The video was captured back on Feb. 8, 2020.

Fowler said Potter County Sheriff’s deputies were responding to a call of bullets possibly escaping the rifle range and hitting the property at a business just north of Smith & Son Armory.

You can hear what sounds like bullets being shot in the background, then a quick, nearby whizzing on the video.

When asked if the body cam video would play a role as evidence, Fowler said it would and it is compelling.

“I think you saw it and I don’t think there was any reasonable person that will say that, that didn’t originate from the range. So, if the range starts back up, and they haven’t taken meaningful steps to prevent that from happening, then we’re going to seek an order to shut it down,” said Fowler.

The new regulation only applies to the discharge of firearms at outdoor sport shooting ranges on lots that are ten acres or smaller, located in the unincorporated area of the county, in a subdivision.

Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said the county is ready to act after receiving plenty of reports.

“Well, I just think it gives us a little leg to stand on. You know, we have to do something before we can do anything and so this just is starting that process,” said Sheriff Thomas.

Potter County Commissioners told MyHighPlains.com they want to respect people’s rights and protect their safety.

“We’re not wanting to hinder anyone from exerting their Constitutional rights and going out and shooting firearms target practice—I do it and, and certainly that’s the right of everyone but when it comes to a sense of that aversion of the safety of the public, we have to step forward,” Potter County Commissioner, Pct. 4, Alphonso Vaughn said.

Mercy Murguia, Potter County Commissioner for Pct. 2, said “The residents that lived in that community, they publicly came forward and said, we don’t have the means to hire an attorney, all of us together to really challenge this group. But we’re asking you as commissioners to help set this regulation, you have the authority to do that. So we have to balance that with that clear and convincing evidence and today, we had our legal arm, which represents our commissioner’s court present that to us, and so we took action.”

Murguia said this was not the first time they had seen this agenda item. Months ago, the commissioners court was filled with residents complaining of noise coming from the gun range. Some even complained bullets were hitting their property.

“I think that really speaks to what people are living around in those circumstances and sharing concern around children playing in the front yard, just basic kind of things we don’t even think about every day,” Murguia added. “And so they were communicating that these firearms were hitting their households and they had pictures but we were really in a challenging point. I call that kind of an intersection point because we didn’t have clear and convincing evidence.”

When it comes to the body cam evidence and whether any possible charges could be brought on the gun range owners or whoever discharged that weapon, Sheriff Thomas said: “I can’t talk about a pending case. I can tell you that reports have been made out there, not only with that, but other reports as well.”

MyHighPlains.com has reached out to one of the owners of the gun range for comment but has not heard back at this time.


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