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January 27, 2005

Alberta man gets conditional sentence for shot which barely missed deaf boy

From: Edmonton Journal - Edmonton,Alberta,Canada - Jan 27, 2005

Broadcast News

January 27, 2005

RED DEER, Alta. (CP) -- A central Alberta man who fired a rifle shot that narrowly missed a deaf boy playing in his tree fort was trying to hit a porcupine, his lawyer told a court.

Neil Michael Rundell, 45, was driving out of a shooting range west of Penhold last June when he got out of his vehicle and took a shot at the porcupine, said defence lawyer Will Willms.

The bullet ricocheted toward the seven-year-old boy.

Rundell regrets not having checked what was beyond his target, and he accepts responsibility, Willms said in Red Deer provincial court Wednesday.

Rundell, 45, pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm.

Judge Thomas Schollie imposed a six-month conditional sentence on Rundell and a five-year firearms prohibition.

He also ordered that Rundell's $600 .22-calibre rifle be sold and the proceeds donated to the Red Cross.

Crown prosecutor Luke Kurata said Robert and Sherry Strand's son Devon was playing in the treehouse on their rural property when they heard a loud report and a bullet whistled past the boy.

The family lives across a road from the shooting range, which is about 20 kilometres west of Penhold. The boy's tree fort was about 135 metres from the shooting range gate.

Devon is deaf but heard the shot because he has a cochlear implant which makes him sensitive to certain sounds, Kurata said.

The youngster was in hysterics and his parents were frightened by the close call.

Devon's dad jumped into his vehicle and followed Rundell's truck to nearby Penhold. He took down the licence number and called police.

When police contacted Rundell, he admitted he had fired the shot and handed over his rifle.

Willms said his client has no prior record and has suffered public humiliation as a result of the publicity the case has attracted.

He said a conviction would affect his client's job as a site supervisor and drilling consultant in the oilpatch in Canada and the United States.

"He is extremely remorseful for his actions,'' said Willms.

Rundell has sold all his guns except one, which is on consignment at a gun store, said Willms.

Devon's mother, Sherry Strand, said she hoped that Rundell had learned his lesson and that others would learn from it, too.

After the incident, Strand began a fight to get rid of the shooting range.

She has presented a petition to Red Deer County and is continuing her efforts to shut the range down.

"It's time (for it) to move,'' she said. "There are too many families here.''
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