Michigan State Police Under Fire for Stray Bullets

Stray bullet from Michigan State Police hits nearby home (courtesy clickondetroit.com)

Dean Weingarten writes [via ammoland.com]:

Michigan police have launched is a stray bullet investigation in Northville Township. A round shattered a window on about the 10th or 11th of October, 2017. I am skeptical of these type of incidents . . .

Stray bullet? (courtesy mcadams.posc.my.edu)

They are quite rare. The image of an Iraqi woman [above] showing investigators two complete rifle cartridges that supposedly hit her residence, is memorable.

That said, this incident appears to be real, not a hoax like the famous Iraqi incident. The window was shattered. It was broken in a believable way. The bullet was found with the shattered glass. The bullet looks fresh and has rifling marks. From clickondetroit.com:

Last year, two homes were hit by stray bullets. The gun range was shut down and modifications were made to ensure the neighborhood’s safety.

Now, another home was hit by a bullet.

A resident on Crestview Circle came home to find his front door shattered and a bullet on the ground.

The Northville Township Police Department investigated and passed the recovered bullet on to MSP to see if it is one their rounds.

The distance from the Michigan State Police Laboratory and the broken window is 2,460 feet or 820 yards. The google maps image below shows the geometry. The direction of fire would have been nearly due South, as is shown in the image.

The distance from the Michigan State Police Laboratory and the broken window is 2,460 feet, or 820 yards.
The distance from the Michigan State Police Laboratory and the broken window is 2,460 feet, or 820 yards.

The distance is well within the maximum range of common pistol bullets. From the picture, I cannot tell if the projectile is a 9 mm or a .40 caliber. It might even be a .45 auto bullet. The Michigan State Police range is behind the Forensic laboratory. That puts it in a reasonable place to supply the bullet for the incident.

The distance is well within the maximum range of common pistol bullets.
The distance is well within the maximum range of common pistol bullets.

There was little energy left in the pistol bullet at that range. It would have been traveling down at a pretty steep angle. The velocity was probably in the 200-300 fps range. The combination of low velocity and a steep angel fits well with the damage done.

Only the outside glass was broken. The glass and bullet fell outside. The inner, unbroken glass would direct the fragments to the outside, as there was not enough energy remaining to break the inside panes.

No one knows for certain if the bullet came from the Michigan Police Forensic Laboratory range. The distance is plausible. The bullet is plausible. The angles and damage are plausible.
No one knows for certain if the bullet came from the Michigan Police Forensic Laboratory range. The distance is plausible. The bullet is plausible. The angles and damage are plausible.

No one knows for certain if the bullet came from the Michigan Police Forensic Laboratory range. The distance is plausible. The bullet is plausible. The angles and damage are plausible. The rifling marks are clear. If there is a close match to a gun fired at the range that day, the circumstantial evidence will be complete.

Investigators at the MSP Forensics lab are baffled because the range has been specifically altered to make such an event impossible. But the possibility of human error is near infinite. What if a pistol was fired, at a high angle, by negligence, *before* being put in play at the range? A firearms instructor told me of exactly such an incident (that did not result in any damage), involving an officer, several years ago.

Many modern handguns use barrels that leave almost no distinguishing marks on the bullets fired. You can usually narrow the firearm down to a make and model or series of models. The manufacturing techniques have become so good, the barrels in some makes are extremely uniform. There are not sufficient differences in barrels to differentiate bullets fired from individual pistols.

There are other potential sources. In the Google maps image, you can see the wooded area between the house and the lab gets a lot of use. A person could have fired a pistol in that area, the bullet could have ricocheted off of a hard object, and ended up breaking the house window.

Michigan State Police under fire for stray bullets (courtesy ammoland.com)

The bullet nose shows significant deformation, more than seems likely from hitting a single pane of glass at such a low level of energy. The bullet most likely was deformed by an impact before the house window was hit. A bullet would normally be de-stabilized after hitting an object that deformed it that much. A de-stabilized bullet quickly loses energy as it travels through the atmosphere.

No one was hit. The danger was fairly small. If hit just wrong, an adult could have lost an eye or a couple of teeth. A young child might have been severely wounded, possibly even killed, if hit exactly wrong.

Stray bullets are a danger but are rarely lethal. Pistol bullets, at nearly half a mile, are unlikely to break skin if the skin is protected by a layer of clothing. The velocity is about the same as such a projectile would receive from a high powered slingshot.

If the MSP lab was involved, it is a serious embarrassment, but a cheap lesson. Pay to fix the window and tighten up the range and firing procedures.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

comments

  1. avatar RCC says:

    We replaced the roof and baffles (under the roof) twice at my old club after the police hired it for training.

    Never under estimate the combination of stupidity / ingenuity that some people have.

    1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

      Around here every road sign and power pole is riddled with bullet holes. The source for a stray bullet in this neck of the woods is, we are told, most likely from a gun.

  2. avatar kevin says:

    This happened in Huntington Beach, CA at the outdoor police range 20 years ago or more. They had an outside range surrounded by a berm and log wall, and someone still managed to launch a .45 round into a plate glass window a half-mile or more away. They closed the range after that.

    I did some googling, and it looks like HBPD later used the nearby Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station range, until an ND got them kicked out.

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    Stray bullets make me sad. Whenever I see stray bullets, I always give them a bowl of warm Hoppe’s. And then I shoot them.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “That’s funny”

        That’s TTAG’s very own Ralph.

        He isn’t known here as “The master of wise-cracks” for nothing.

        One day, many years from now, I hope I’m one-tenth as funny as him.

        (Who am I kidding? Our star the Sun will run out of hydrogen before that happens…)

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Agreed.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      This wouldn’t be a problem if we could just get people to spay or neuter their bullets.

  4. avatar FedUp says:

    Had a big protest in my county years ago, people were blaming bullet holes in their siding on the local sportsman’s club. I knew the club and could not believe that bullets were being launched over the berm. Like any gun club, if your muzzle ever goes above horizontal and you aren’t on a clay bird range you get yelled at, if it goes above horizontal a second time you get kicked off the property.

    I mentioned it to a friend who was a MSP trooper and avid shooter. He told me that there was a police range nearby, and he’d bet money that any negligently fired bullets leaving a shooting range came from the police range, not the gun club.

  5. avatar Omer says:

    Any time you think you’ve made something idiot proof, they go and make a better idiot.

  6. avatar Warlocc says:

    Not to sound like a police basher, but why is it always police tied to these types of stories?

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      If my experience way up here in the wild north of California is any guide, it is because officers practice their mag dumps at the range. In any police involved shooting, it is usual to here that the officer(s) emptied their 17 round Glocks toward the subject (usually striking him with about half their shots). I assume that they go to the range and shoot their guns as fast as they can, and every once in a while, the muzzle climbs a little high and launches one over the berm. It was a big item in the news not so long ago (that petered out, maybe it is in litigation) that bullets were being found in an adjacent neighborhood that had grown up next to the range. The range used to be at least a mile out of town, but not any more, and the neighbors are trying to shut ite down.

    2. avatar Hasdrubal says:

      Well, police are the largest group of people I can think of who use guns a lot without actually being gun people. There’s quite a few who don’t care about their marksmanship beyond what it takes to pass the qualification, and many places don’t have very difficult qual courses. Anyone else who shows up at the range, on their own time, using their own guns and paying for their own ammo, probably cares more about training than a lot of cops.

      This is coming from almost nine years as a patrol cop. I wish I was making it up, but the fact that you’re asking the question in the first place tells you I’m not.

      1. avatar JS says:

        Agreed, I have family in LE and they sat there is a clear line between LEO’s that enjoy firearms and understand their weapons and those that could care less and just wave them around. The care less guys are always doing stupid stuff (their words, not mine), ND’s, finger on trigger, etc.

  7. avatar LarryinTX says:

    These incidents are minor. I had an accidental discharge in 1971 (I don’t think it was negligent, a loose cotter pin shorted the firing mechanism) of a 2.75 inch Folding Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR) while I was 1000 feet in the air. Inert warhead weighed about 10 lbs of metal, accelerated to around 2500 fps in level flight, headed toward a public highway after it passed directly under the aircraft in front of me. Quick survey by lead found no vehicles with funny looking things sticking out of them, and no later reports of mayhem indicate the same result as the huge majority of loose projectiles, nothing. But, can you imagine? And that rocket is probably still sticking out of the ground somewhere in NM.

  8. avatar TommyJay says:

    There was a case on Forensic Files, I think, where a teen or pre-teen was killed by a stray range bullet. The kid was in a rec. center building maybe 150 to 300 yds downrange. They brought an expert in, who declared the safety of the range the worst he’d seen.

    The range was holding a speed shooting competition and the one entrant had a 1911 with an extremely light trigger pull. During at least one of trigger pulls, the gun muzzle recoiled up and the trigger got pulled again. I think they recreated the event and the second firing was so quick that you could barely distinguish it from the first.

    The second bullet passed through a gap in the above berm barriers, entered the building at a soft point (maybe a duct) high up and would have continued rising above everyone’s head except… The bullet rose up into some soft ceiling tiles that re-directed it downward, creating a long crease in the tiles.

  9. avatar tyler runo says:

    I’m no a LEO, but sometimes it seems like family and friends in law enforcement can be a little lax with certain rules and disciplines because they have a badge and their department will back them up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough job and a calling but that’s just one observation I’ve seen over the years.

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