City investigates claims of shooting range bullets ending up in neighborhoods

HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu city officials are looking at making some safety improvements at the Koko Head rifle range after claims that bullets have been found in neighborhoods in the area.

The most recent incident happened a few months ago after some heavy rains on Kaeleku Street. "On March 12, I found a bullet that kind of washed up on a trail behind my house," said resident Greg Knudsen, "and it was just sitting there on the trail, and where else could it come from?"

Knudsen thinks it came from the rifle range, which is on the other side of Koko head from his home. He wrote to the head of the city's Parks and Recreation Department about his concerns. In the letter, he also mentioned another incident in March of 2010, when he says a bullet went past him while he and his brother were climbing Koko Crater.

"I'm not saying it's the same bullet, but I'm saying that it's very possible that there are stray bullets that occasionally go over that rim," Knudsen said.

"It was hard to determine the age of the bullet, if it actually came from the range, but if it walks like duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck," said parks and recreation director Gary Cabato. "Proximity says the likely culprit is the range."

Knudsen happens to be the chairman of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board. He said his discovery, coupled with earlier discoveries of bullets on rooftops along Ahukini Street in 2009, have reopened the discussion about safety at the range. Knudsen claims the city hasn't followed safety recommendations that were made in a 2001 master plan report.

"There's just that 2001 report, but previous ones had also addressed many of those concerns," said Knudsen. "So it's been long standing, and for the most part, ignored."

Cabato said the city is responding to the latest claims. It sent a safety inspector to the range, and also received new recommendations from range master Mike Muramoto. The most immediate plan is to  increase the size of berms behind targets, using rock-free soil to prevent bullets ricocheting. And Cabato wants to install a so-called "eyebrow" over the shooting area. "All it is, is a lip overhead of the rifle range to keep people from aiming up over the target range. And this way anything that's shot is going to go right back down," he said.

Both men are in favor of proposals to build another rifle range in Kalaeloa in West Oahu. And neither man wants to close the current Koko Head facility. Knudsen wants to increase safety measures.

"The residential area surrounds it. Lots of recreational areas surround it. So we need to make sure that it's safe," Knudsen said.

Knudsen also said while there are no firm dates set, the neighborhood board's parks committee plans to revisit the matter in the near future.

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