A Nazareth man admitted he fired bullets from the Stockertown Rod & Gun Club range into a nearby home, putting a woman and child at risk.
Timothy Frey said he was sorry for putting them in harm's way on June 20. But he said the gun club should have done a better job warning him to stay in the "shooter's box" when firing his carbine rifle.
Police said the woman and her child left a bedroom just before the bullet went through the siding and an interior wall into the bedroom of a home in the 600 block of Dogwood Lane in Stockertown.
Frey, 62, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct Monday. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano sentenced him to a year of probation.
Neighbors have complained for years that bullets from the range have pierced their homes. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli investigated but couldn't find any wrongdoing last year.
In 2011 the gun club raised its backstop, moved the shooting ranges and installed surveillance cameras, which satisfied Morganelli that neighbors would be safe.
Police initially thought Frey was "bump firing" his rifle, or shaking it so that it would operate as an automatic weapon. Actually the rifle was malfunctioning and Frey was trying to make it work, according to defense attorney Syzane Arifaj.
Frey said he left the shooter's box because, "I wanted to get closer to the target because getting closer to the target is safer."
The shooter's box has louvers over it to prevent bullets from going up in the air.
"There are signs all over the range specifically with respect to the rules you must follow," said Assistant District Attorney Richard Pepper.
Frey said he's a longtime gun owner who has often used the Stockertown range. Leaving the shooter's box is permitted on the range for handguns and so he thought it was allowed on the rifle range, too.
He said the warning about that rule was one line on a small sign about the size of a piece of notebook paper.
He said the manufacturer sent him a kit to fix his malfunctioning rifle, but he didn't get it until after he was charged and the gun was confiscated.
Asked whether he behaved recklessly, Frey said "I admit that because that's what they told me happened."
Frey passed a National Rifle Association safety class. He's a sound engineer at Lafayette College who has never been charged with a crime.
"I am a safe shooter," he said. "I was taught when I was 9, 10 years old. It's not going to happen again. ... No one was hurt. I am so thankful to God for that."
On the date he hit the home, another one of Frey's bullets struck a garbage can outside a home in the 500 block of Main Street in Stockertown, authorities said. Three bullets struck the home on Dogwood Lane but only one went as far as the bedroom.
Police initially charged him with firing into an occupied structure, but that charge was withdrawn in October when it became clear Frey didn't aim at the homes on purpose.
Two remaining charges of recklessly endangering another person were dropped as a result of the plea deal.
Giordano ordered that Frey's son can claim Frey's rifle from police. Frey can get it back after he completes his probation.
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