Shots at night irk neighbors

BAR HARBOR — A recent visit by police to a home on Kitteridge Brook Road has highlighted a growing neighborhood divide over incessant late-night target shooting.

Police were called to investigate at the home of David “James” Bunker just before 3 a.m. Sept. 20 after receiving several calls about a large amount of traffic in the neighborhood and multiple, sustained blasts of gunfire coming from the direction of the property. Several days later, Bunker was summonsed on a disorderly conduct charge. It is the first time he has been charged with anything in relation to his target shooting. Police have responded to dozens of complaints about gunshots and explosions from the property over the past several years.

Much to the chagrin of those who live near the property and those who live near a similar home shooting range on Russell Farm Road, neither Maine state law nor local ordinances limit shooting on private property. Even while police recognize the disturbance that can be created, they say that there is really not a whole lot they can do about it.

“It’s a common misconception that you have to be on a range to be target shooting,” Sgt. David Kerns said. “Provided that you are firing in a safe direction and doing it safely, you are within the confines of the law.”

For Kitteridge Brook Road residents, however, there is little solace in the idea that the shooting is being done in a safe manner. The sounds of sustained gunfire, often for hours at a time, are seriously disrupting their lives, some said.

“Our windows shake, and our animals freak, and our grandchildren freak,” said neighbor Connie Taylor. “It’s to the point that it is just too much.”

Other road residents, who wished to remain anonymous, made similar statements. They spoke about heavy noise, often late at night, coming from the property, dogs that cower, their frustration with the lack of police action, and fear over the reduced potential to sell their homes in the future.

The police often will receive a call about the Bunker property during the night, but find that the noise has subsided by the time they arrive. They also will often receive calls about shooting the next day, after the fact. In both of these instances, there is really nothing that can be done, Sgt. Kerns said, because the police need to observe the behavior themselves before they can act.

In the most recent incident, police did hear gunfire. They also had officially warned Bunker back in the spring on a disorderly conduct charge after paying several visits to the property. After a number of calls came in the morning after the most recent incident, Sgt. Kerns said he decided that the situation warranted a formal summons.

“The disorderly conduct statute has a provision for loud and unreasonable noise,” he said. “And after having been told to stop the activity back in the spring, I felt it was appropriate to issue a summons.”

On January 2013, Bunker was warned for making explosives after police determined he was shooting at exploding Tannerite targets on his property. A subsequent investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms determined that there was nothing illegal about possessing the exploding target material and that Bunker was within the law until he mixed the ingredients together. The law was soon changed to allow possession of the mixed ingredients.

Residents of the Kitteridge Brook Road area said that the recent citation will likely calm things down for a little while, but that they expect the problem to ramp back up again. They compared the summons to a “slap on the wrist” and questioned whether it would be enough to change anything.

Richard Taylor, who has lived in the area with his wife Connie for nearly 40 years, said that he has no problems with guns whatsoever, but the effect on his quality of life from the sustained shooting is growing.

“I grew up with guns, and I couldn’t imagine acting like this,” he said. “And to shoot the way he shoots, round after round after round for two or three hours at a time, it’s ludicrous. I just don’t see how the cops can allow this to go on.”

Bunker was contacted but did not return subsequent calls for comment.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]