Stray bullet raising questions

HOWLAND – A 7.62 mm caliber bullet – shot from a high velocity rifle, traveling through four walls and two cabinets in their Rolling Meadows home – has been on the minds of Edward and Janet Hazboun.

“They’ve got a lack of peace of mind when they’re sitting on their patio,” Howland police Chief Paul Monroe said.

The couple went to the Howland Township trustees meeting last week to ask officials to look into possible laws that could be put in place to prevent the sort of incident that occurred at their residence on May 26.

That Sunday, Edward Hazboun arrived home and was informed by his sister-in-law Barbara Leary, who had been house-sitting, that she thought she heard something hit the home about 4:30 p.m. She said she believed it may have been a bullet.

Hazboun discovered a bullet hole on the east side of the house and called the police. Together they traced the path of the bullet:

It traveled through the outside wall into the kitchen, through a food pantry and into the food, through the wall behind the pantry and into the bathroom. It then continued through another wall and into an office, through the office wall and into a wardrobe closet. The bullet ended up inside a portfolio book, according to police reports.

Officers spoke with Leary, who said she heard shooting coming from the woods behind the home. Police walked through the woods to a neighbor’s house about a quarter of a mile away.

There, James L. Karr, 1463 Duffus Road, told officers he and his stepson Michael Seidler had been shooting into a pile of wood in the backyard. Karr said they had been firing a handgun and a shotgun and were unaware that the bullet had traveled through the woods.

Hazboun said at the trustees meeting that Karr has paid for repairs to the house.

At the meeting, Monroe said that police were unable to file charges since there was no evidence of intent, and after talking to prosecutors, they determined it did not fit the nature of a crime that could result in legal proceedings.

Hazboun said he also spoke to his own lawyers, who said the end result would only be having the house repaired – which Karr already took care of.

At the meeting, the couple remained calm while explaining their situation and asking for help from the trustees. Janet Hazboun said with fireworks going off in the summer, the incident is constantly on her mind.

While Edward Hazboun said they can’t reverse what has been done, they want to be sure it won’t happen again.

“You’re not out of our radar screen just because we can’t jump into it,” township Administrator Darlene St. George told them.

Ohio laws give cities the right to regulate the shooting of firearms, but not townships. Making legislation that regulates firearms is prohibited in townships and especially those with home rule like Howland.

While home rule gives the township the ability to govern more than those without it – such as adopting building codes, maintaining protection forces and installing sewer lines – it expressly denies them the ability to regulate firearms.

St. George said she thinks that this is clearly drawn out, probably as a result of lobbying efforts when home rule became an option.

“You can certainly feel their concern. There should be some responsibility. I think that is what they are looking for – accountability,” St. George said of the Hazbouns.

Trustee James Saker explained that the township won’t be able to ban discharging firearms since their authority falls under the state’s laws. He said the only thing they might be able to do is charge hefty fines for negligence.

The trustees promised at the meeting to have their law director look into possible legislation they could draw upon. Since then, St. George said the law director referred her to information from the Ohio Township Association.

There isn’t too much townships can do unless state laws change, according to Matthew DeTemple the executive director of the Ohio Township Association. He said his organization has heard of enough similar instances to the Hazbouns’ – in which bullets hit schools or come onto neighbor’s property – to add the discharging of firearms to their land use regulation platform.

He said they are pushing for the state to give townships similar authority to municipalities when it comes to dealing with firearms. Their legislation would allow townships to chose if they’d like to ban discharging firearms.

“The legislation we’re seeking is permissive, so each township could decide for itself,” he said.

DeTemple said the landscape of townships is changing with many that were once rural becoming more populated. Yet while others remain sparce, he said it is important to let the trustees regulate whether they would like to ban discharging firearms, keep it banned in only certain areas or during certain hours or choose to leave it unregulated.

“It’s a sensitive topic. People always think gun control and that implicates the Second Amendment. We support the Second Amendment and total respect that right to bear arms but there’s a safety issue here,” he said.