It’s not unusual around these parts to hear “celebratory” gun shots on the night of New Year’s Eve.
It is unusual, however, to find a bullet in your house on New Year’s Eve day — or in the case of Mary Smith, for your dog to find one.
Smith, who lives in Seagrass Plantation off Irons Lane in Clarksville, said she is not sure how long the bullet had been in her house when her dog found it next to a hassock on Dec. 31.
Smith and her husband, who live full-time in Maryland, had been at their Delaware house for “a couple of days” when their 11-month-old puppy found the bullet, later identified by Delaware State Police as a .223-caliber.
The bullet, Smith said, “was about a foot from [the dog’s] crate, in a little sitting room off the first-floor bedroom.”
Upon further inspection, the Smiths found a bullet hole in the wall of the room, about 2 feet above the floor. “There were little holes in the skirt of a chair, one in the hassock skirt,” Smith said from her home near Catonsville, Md. “It must have stopped at the leg of the hassock. I didn’t even realize it was a bullet” at first, she said.
The state police officer who responded to the Smiths’ call told them that type of bullet “wasn’t typically used” for hunting, she said, but that he figured it might have come from a deer stand.
“To be honest, I think it’s more like target shooting,” she said.
But while her home is adjacent to marshland, and there are deer and deer stands in the area, Smith said she didn’t think there was a clear shot from anywhere that would make sense for it to be either from a hunter or a target shooter.
Smith said it is unnerving, either way.
“We’re lucky nobody was outside, or their dog,” she said. Even if they had been in the room when the bullet entered, “We could have been shot in the leg,” she said.
Smith’s neighbor. Bob Hartfield, said he moved to Seagrass Plantation full-time about four years ago and that he is “kind of used to hearing gunshots” in the neighborhood, describing the sound as that of “a repetitive, automatic weapon.”
In addition to the nearby marshland, there is a neighboring wooded area that is privately-owned, Hartfield said.
Since the neighborhood is in an unincorporated area, not in a town, he said he feels that it might be time for residents to meet with state representatives about the dangers presented by people shooting — either at targets or at wildlife — so close to homes that bullets are being shot through walls and ending up inside homes.
“When I read about it, I was horrified,” said Hartfield. Information about the incident had been posted on the neighborhood’s Facebook page. He said he sees it as a symptom of rapid development in areas that were once rural.
According to Delaware law, it is illegal to shoot a gun within 100 yards of an occupied building “below the canal” — otherwise known as south of I-295 and I-95.
Smith, who has owned her home since 2012, said another neighbor had found bullets in her home about four years ago. She said she will definitely be wary the next time she is at the Clarksville house.
“It’s such a freak thing,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be thinking about it the whole time” when she is in the house in the future.
She said she fears “somebody’s going to get hurt” if whoever is shooting near her home isn’t more careful.
By Kerin Magill