On March 28, what should’ve been a calm Sunday walk on the tracks west of Lumsden turned worrisome for Scott Thiele of Lumsden and his dog when they heard a series of popping noises he recognized as gunfire. The gunfire was followed by the sound of what he believes was a ricocheting bullet as it went astray, striking somewhere within 50 metres of where he was walking.
When leaving the area, he saw two trucks he assumed were where the gunfire originated. He went home, got his phone and binoculars and saw two people firing their rifles from the back of their trucks and then called the RCMP to report what he saw as a dangerous situation. Thiele said his interaction that followed with the RCMP was, “Very frustrating just trying to get some action taken while the shooting was still going on.”
After leaving the area, Thiele said that the RCMP called, letting him know the shooters were on private property. They had permission from the property owner and consent from neighbouring property owners, so there was nothing they could do to stop them. Thiele says he explained the danger was because stray bullets were falling in an area highly travelled by the public. He felt the “big problem” was the officer didn’t seem familiar with the area and could not understand the gravity of the situation that bullets were flying near where people recreate.
Adding to his frustration, Thiele said he felt the officer was trying to discourage him from filing a complaint because they said it would be difficult to prove and asked if he had taken a photograph. Despite this, he filed a complaint at the Lumsden detachment for the unsafe handling of a firearm.
“During this meeting the same member tried several times to discourage me from filing the report and continually stated her unwillingness to take any action simply because the shooters had permission to be there.”
Thiele says he felt the officer didn’t appreciate the danger and seemed unconcerned about the situation’s gravity. He again tried to explain the proximity of the people out walking that day and a group of children playing near the trestle.
He said the officer told him she had informed the shooters just that there had been a complaint, not that their bullet had gone astray. Thiele said because he has enjoyed recreational use of a firearm, “I would have been horrified to learn one of my rounds had strayed anywhere near a person and would have immediately stopped and taken any action to prevent it from happening again. These shooters may have well be responsible firearm users, but this officer didn’t even inform them that a round had gone astray and provide them the opportunity to act in a safe manner.”
Shortly before LMT’s interview with Thiele on April 7th, he received a call from the responding officer. Thiele said the officer told him the shooters were within the town limits and therefore not allowed to shoot without a permit. She also said that it was unsafe because the bullets were reaching the tracks. She had also misunderstood Thiele’s location, saying she thought he called from one of the houses across from the valley where the guns were being fired. “But there was no reason for her to think that, I had never said anything to indicate that,” he said.
Thiele attributes the about-face to his informing Lumsden town councillor Ashlee Longmoore what had happened, and there was a council meeting the night before.
Mayor of Lumsden, Bryan Matheson, said Council talked with the RCMP during the April 6th meeting of Council regarding what happened, what their reactions were and what the Town can do in the future.
Matheson said that after the meeting on Tuesday night, “we have instructed Administration to review the options of a bylaw either from the Town or it may have to be from the Rural Municipality about discharging a firearm within certain limits of town boundaries or buildings. We are in the process of finding out what our options are.” He said the Town has a very good working relationship with the RM, and they are confident and hopeful that if the Town can’t put in a bylaw, the RM would assist them and put in a bylaw that says you can’t discharge within a certain limit of Town.
Thiele said he is pleased with the Town’s response to what occurred, “I feel like my elected officials have done a bang up job, the town council seems to be taking this as seriously as warranted and so I’m satisfied with how they’ve represented me.”
The RCMP has been contacted for comment but didn’t respond by this publication.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times