Tom Bauer wasn't a stranger to the sound of gunfire near his West Keizer residence.
His new home on the Willamette River sits almost directly across from a privately owned Polk County rock quarry regularly used for recreational shooting.
But on June 2, a rifle bullet punched through the side of Bauer's house, crashing into a granite backsplash before landing on a kitchen counter near his wife, Sheryl, who was standing a few feet away.
Not the only one
Bauer quickly learned he wasn't the only West Keizer resident upset about the seemingly "ever present gunfire" across the river and the threat of stray bullets.
Keizer Police Deputy Chief Jeffry Kuhns said his department has received multiple complaints over the years. In September 2017, Keizer officers responded to frantic reports of stray bullets landing in Sunset Park, although none were ever recovered.
In that case, officers contacted a group of people at the quarry believed responsible for the stray shots. An AR-15 style rifle was found at the site, but no one admitted to using it and no citations were issued.
There have been other incidents, according to Rhonda Rich, a member of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association. She said residents have found multiple bullets in lawn furniture and trees along the riverside, which is densely populated with homes.
Lance Davis, the quarry's owner, said the area is not a commercial gun range and only family and friends are allowed to shoot at the property on River Bend Road NW. He declined to comment further.
Since the June 2 incident, Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton said Davis has put up several signs indicating that shooting needs to be done in an east-to-west direction rather than north-to-south.
Signs were previously up along the quarry, stating "Caution: residential homes within 2,500 feet. Do not fire a rifle or pistol rounds this direction."
Garton said the shooting area will be relocated after more berms and fencing are put in. A gate will also be installed to better control who is entering the property, since "random people drive down there and start shooting."
"(Davis) is being proactive about making sure this type of thing doesn't happen again," Garton said. "Shooting can happen safely over there, they just need to do it in the right place."
Garton said the four men allegedly responsible for hitting Bauer's home in the 1300 block of Rafael Avenue North with a .223 caliber bullet were initially cited for misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
"What they were doing wasn't safe. ... When shooting a weapon, you are responsible for each of those bullets." Garton said. "People shouldn't be restricted on what they can do on their own property, but this crossed a line."
The citations were dropped, however, after Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton determined there wasn't sufficient evidence.
Felton said the DA's office was unsure who fired the shot and whether the men were able to see the houses across the river when the rifle was discharged.
He said he supported the sheriff's decision to cite the four men, but since he operates under a different legal standard, he had to drop the case.
"You can't hold all four responsible for something one person did," Felton said. "We are just incredibly fortunate there was no injury."
Politicians get involved
Still, the case has drawn significant political attention.
In a letter to Davis,Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, wrote, "I am one of most staunch gun supporters in the Oregon Legislative, but that means we must be responsible as well. I have no standing in your county as I represent a different jurisdiction and I can't really do anything other than to ask you to cease this shooting range, as a favor to me and my constituents."
Bauer, Rich and other members of the neighborhood association took their concerns to the Polk County Commissioners, testifying Tuesday morning at the board's weekly meeting.
"This is not an issue with the Second Amendment or proper land use, it's a matter of public safety," said Carol Doerfler, president of the neighborhood association.
Doerfler said the group not only worries for residents' safety, but also those using the Willamette River for recreational purposes. The quarry is near Keizer River Rapids Park.
Felton, who also spoke at Tuesday's commission meeting, said he was disappointed the DA's office wasn't notified sooner of the ongoing problems with the popular shooting area.
He said he was impressed at how many residents testified and hoped it wouldn't be "the end of this topic."
Despite Davis' recent changes at the quarry, Bauer, Rich and Doefler said they don't believe it's enough.
"We don't want to say shoot in someone else's direction, just stop shooting altogether," Doerfler said.
"I'm not going to slow down on this until an actual solution is found," Bauer said. "We shouldn't have to live in fear of getting shot."