Ashburn Man Acquitted in Target Shooting Case that Injured Woman

The 24-year-old Ashburn man charged with recklessness when a round fired from a Hamilton-area target range struck a woman living nearby was found not guilty on Wednesday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, on Sept. 7 two adult males and two adult females were shooting into a natural berm on a farm property. During the session, a round grazed a woman’s shoulder and may have then ricocheted off the victim’s house, which is estimated to have been 1,800 to 2,000 feet away. The victim was treated at the scene and did not require further medical treatment.

William R. Hymes III was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm in the case. 

He was acquitted Jan. 15 following a trial in Loudoun County District Court, where it was ruled that prosecutors could not prove that he was the individual from the range who fired the shot that grazed the woman outside her home. 

While Loudoun County has experienced several incidents of errant rounds from target shooting that have struck houses and buildings on other properties during the past two years, this was the first case to result in a criminal charge. In the other cases, investigators said they were unable to prove which individuals among groups shooting weapons had fired the errant shots. 

That concern prompted the Board of Supervisors to enact a new local ordinance late last year. That law reads: “the discharge of firearms for recreational or target shooting purposes shall be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that projectiles do not leave the boundaries of the property or parcel upon which the shooting is occurring, unless permission to do so has been granted by the adjacent landowner. A projectile leaving the boundaries of the property or parcel shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this section.”

Supervisosrs at the time were divided over whether the change would overcome the challenge of proving which individual fired the errant rounds. 

Last week, three individuals were charged under that ordinance after pellets from their skeet shooting activities allegedly struck a barn on a nearby property.

7 thoughts on “Ashburn Man Acquitted in Target Shooting Case that Injured Woman

  • 2020-01-16 at 4:01 pm
    Permalink

    With incidents of errant rounds, it should come down to liability of the property owner/or person doing the shooting. If the person(s) doing the shooting cannot be identified, it should default to the property owner where they are shooting from. Stupidity and lack of concern for the safe handling of firearms is unacceptable and should require heavy penalties!

    • 2020-01-24 at 7:06 pm
      Permalink

      —–> “If the person(s) doing the shooting cannot be identified, it should default to the property owner
      where they are shooting from.”
      Given the mindset and scope of the weak and weakly-enforced laws we have, how does one prove from what property the round was shot.

      —-> “Stupidity and lack of concern for the safe handling of firearms is unacceptable and should require heavy penalties!”
      Welcome to west Loudoun County.

  • 2020-01-22 at 12:10 pm
    Permalink

    “…we were unable to determine who was actually driving the car that hit the bicyclist so we had to find everyone in the car not guilty.”

    That would be ridiculous. Why does it make sense when people are shooting someone? Agree with other comment, the liability should devolve to the property owner. Perhaps a civil suit will clear this up.

  • 2020-01-24 at 11:16 am
    Permalink

    I’m glad there are others who find this absolutely ludicrous.

    So two people standing in a field firing a weapon strike and kill a child in a neighboring yard and there’s no liability?
    If I am 100 yds from a dwelling and have a “berm”, I can shoot indiscriminately and as long as I have another person standing there with me, I can’t be found guilty of any charges.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  • 2020-01-24 at 6:09 pm
    Permalink

    I was at the meeting where this code was changed. I was stunned at how little work seems to have been put into the wording ahead of time. The tortured wording is in the end pretty much meaningless as it didn’t address the concerns raised by earlier incidents. “Who fired the shots” is key as you can’t charge everyone present and be able to convict anyone beyond reasonable doubt.

    I frankly thought the performance of Letourneau, Buffington and Meyer was embarrassing. Meyer was particularly upset that no one had been convicted during his tenure on the board. Yet the board spent something like a year working on an amendment to the code, didn’t have a reasonable alternative at the start of the meeting, and then stumbled through the process to come up with something new that doesn’t address the main legal problem.

    It appears those involved in the shooting had competent legal representation and kept their mouth’s shut and used the 5th amendment to refuse to incriminate themselves. Again, one comment seems indicate a lack of understanding of the US legal system. If you can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt who did something you can’t convict.

    I am grateful that only one person was injured and that it was not serious. Exercising your 2A rights requires a certain level of responsibility which clearly was not present with the people shooting on that day.

    This is another example of how government does nothing well and offers a lose/lose outcome to Loudoun residents.

    The victim here probably still has civil recourse and I would hope she pursues it. These irresponsible people need to be held accountable for a grossly stupid act. A large civil penalty may encourage a sense of responsibility.

    • 2020-01-29 at 2:38 pm
      Permalink

      —-> “The tortured wording is in the end pretty much meaningless as it didn’t address the concerns raised by earlier incidents.”

      Here’s the new local ordinance:
      “The discharge of firearms for recreational or target shooting purposes shall be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that projectiles do not leave the boundaries of the property or parcel upon which the shooting is occurring, unless permission to do so has been granted by the adjacent landowner. A projectile leaving the boundaries of the property or parcel shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this section.”

      Obviously, there’s nothing in this ordinance that addresses how to identify a specific shooter or from which property a shooting occurred. Also, no mention of just how a target shooter will ensure a projectile will stay within the property boundaries. And since a projectile can travel many thousands of feet, getting permission from an adjoining property is not enough. I would ask the question since the Board of Supervisors apparently devised this new ordinance, what background do they have in codifying new laws? I would hope a lawyer, more fluent in legalese, was consulted. As it stands now, this new ordinance is pretty much useless.

      Loudoun County is not the first to face this problem. Did our Board of Supervisors research just how other jurisdictions deal with this problem?

      I would propose that in the event that multiple shooters are involved resulting homes being struck (as in the Aldie incidents) or people injured (or possibly killed), that it would not be necessary to identify the specific shooter(s) inflicting damage, but that ALL of the shooters engaging in discharging firearms during the incident be liable since they are all complicit in the act.

      Here are the ordinances currently in effect in Loudoun County:

      1) It is unlawful to hunt with a firearm within 100 yards of a road.

      2) It is unlawful to transport, possess, or carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in any vehicle on any public street, road or highway

      3) Discharging firearms is prohibited within certain areas (check local county ordinance for area description), except deer hunting is permitted with handguns, shotguns, or muzzleloading rifles using a single projectile and all other hunting is allowed with rifles of .22 caliber rimfire or less, handguns, shotguns, and muzzleloading rifles using single or multiple projectiles.

      4) Discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of any public park or school.

      5) Discharge of firearms is prohibited within 100 yards of a building with a current occupancy
      permit unless the owner or authorized agent has given permission.

      • 2020-01-29 at 7:30 pm
        Permalink

        Alas, you seem to be utterly ignorant of American law. Generally speaking, you can’t charge a group of people for a crime committed by one of them. That’s like suggesting we charge all the passengers in a car if one of the occupants is intoxicated.

        The problem is, there are limits to law. You can’t have the LCSO office torture the 4 suspects into a confession.

        The board played around with this change for something like a year and in the end accomplished nothing when the approved the change. It was embarrassing yet their singular incompetence appears to escape them.

        The board seems to have incorrectly identified the actual problem, made an utterly ineffective change, and declared victory.

        Of course, the person who shot a resident in this case was charged under the old ordinance. But the new ordinance would have been equally ineffective in securing a conviction. Either way, the board failed miserably in this instance.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: