Bullets and rumors flying: Who's firing weapons in the Bellview abandoned pit?
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) —
It started as just a few rounds being fired occasionally, but now, neighbors off Longleaf Drive, near Pine Forest High School, said the gunfire is constant and it's become dangerous.
Larry Huntley, who lives about a block and a half away from the property, decided it was time to get some answers.
"When I drove up here, there were three deputy cars parked on the side of the road and there was one private truck," said Huntley.
Huntley snapped photos and sent them to Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh.
"I sent those pictures to the sheriff's office, just so that they knew. At that point, I didn't know it was them shooting, I thought maybe they were down there investigating, then today on Facebook on your page, the owner of the pit confirmed it," said Bergosh. "He said we've allowed the SWAT team down there, we've allowed deputies and it's been about a year, so that was a surprise to me!"
We reached out to the owner of the land and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office. The landowner didn't get back to us, but the sheriff's office did. They published a response on their Facebook page. It reads in part:
The ECSO SWAT team has used the land to train on, but no calls were made about property damage on the dates the ECSO was utilizing the range. It is common for SWAT teams to train in different locations like schools, churches, and other business to be prepared for any situation.
"There were rumors, some of the residents suggested that they thought maybe, but now we know for sure," Bergosh said.
Now that we know who's behind the shooting, neighbors, who have found bullets wedged into the sides of their homes and cars are left wondering, is this legal?
"If it's legal, let us know that and we'll learn to live with it I suppose, but the concern is whatever is going on, is not being contained to the pit," Huntley said.
But the answer isn't clear. Alison Rogers, the county attorney, told us over the phone, with regard to firearms and ammunition, over the last 10 years, for the most part, the state legislature has broadly pre-empted regulation from local governments.
Meaning when it comes to firing guns, it's up to state officials to regulate, not local government.
For those who live in the area and are concerned about their safety, the law just doesn't seem to make sense.
"It's just hard for me to believe that even in Florida, you can shoot guns anywhere you want to and with bullets flying and hitting houses," said Huntley. "It's just hard to believe that we would condone that."