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Cops Shoot Neighborhood in Training

May 26, 1999

LORTON, Va. (AP) _ Breanna Hafele was downstairs watching television when a submachine gun bullet flew through her second-story bedroom window and landed on her bed. The 4-year-old never heard the glass shatter. Neither did her mother.

``I didn’t even know it happened until my neighbor came over,″ said June Hafele, who did hear gunfire but thought it was either thunder or electricians working in the alley. ``I didn’t know what to think. I rushed upstairs and saw glass all over her bed and floor.″

Hafele’s home was one of a dozen sprayed by submachine guns fired at a nearby shooting range used to train police officers. At least two rounds crashed through windows of homes with young children, including Breanna. Another bullet landed on a dining room floor where a father was holding his 8-month-old daughter. No one was injured.

At least three vehicles also were shot.

The gunfire came as a District of Columbia weapons instructor conducted an assault drill Monday at the district-owned complex on the grounds of the Lorton Prison. Officers from four nearby jurisdictions were being trained at the facility, said Sgt. Joe Gentile of the D.C. Police Department. The range is designed mainly for shotguns.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey ``immediately directed that no firing be conducted at the range until further notice ... until we determine exactly what happened and how it happened,″ Gentile said.

Authorities said they are certain the bullets came from the facility, although they would have had to fly from the partially submerged shooting range, pass more than a mile of hilly fields, trees and rows of other homes before they struck the townhouse community, about 20 miles from the nation’s capital.

``We determined, using a tracking system, that, from the trajectory of the bullet ... that that is where it came from,″ said Gretchen Lacharite, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department. ``In addition, there was evidence that was recovered in interviews with the people involved.″

Donna Conklin, who lives down the block from the Hafeles, said she heard popping noises but was used to hearing gunfire from the shooting range because ``they’re out there a lot _ at least one day a week.″ At the time, she was in her basement with two grandchildren doing their homework. A pair of police officers came by later.

``They said some of those houses had been shot by bullets in the firing range, and (one) looked up and he said, ’You have a bullet hole in your siding.‴ Conklin said. ``I went, ‘Oh my God, you’re kidding me.’ So I went outside, and there it is.″

A bullet struck the siding beneath a second-floor bedroom window of her home.

``It’s a miracle that nobody was hurt,″ said Conklin, who wants to start a petition to close down the range because ``there are too many kids here.″

The entire prison complex is slated for closure by 2002 under an agreement with the federal government.

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