Landlord to talk to tenant about gunfire

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 05:34 PM

The owner of the property near Chapel Hill High School believed to be the site from which men reportedly fired what one resident believed were assault rifles for more than two hours on Saturday said he will ask his tenant to no longer shoot weapons on his property.

Scott Kovens, the owner of a local construction company who also owns the property at 1915 Homestead Rd., said firing weapons so close to schools is a serious threat to the safety of students and other who might be on their campuses.

“I will talk to them, and if they don’t like it then they can move somewhere else,” Kovens said in an interview Tuesday.

Meanwhile, his tenant, Jefferson Davis, apologized Tuesday to anyone “who is upset” because of his target practice Saturday.

Davis, who said he checked with Orange County law enforcement officials to make sure he was in compliance with the law, called The Herald-Sun to clear up what he said were some inaccuracies, namely that he was shooting assault weapons on Saturday.

Davis said he doesn’t own an assault weapon and was only shooting pistols with his son.

“We may shoot out there once a month for 30 minutes at a time,” Davis said. “It was just pistols being shot out there.”

Furthermore, Davis said they were shooting into a 20-foot-high dirt berm that “would stop anything long before it goes any further.”

But Robert Perkins, who complained to the Town Council about the weapons being fired in an email this week, said he is certain he heard an assault weapon being fired and saw one of Davis’ friends holding one when drove to the house and approached him about the gunfire.

 “I definitely heard the AR-15 weapon being fired over a period of two hours,” Perkins said. “His friend was the one actually holding the assault rifle.”

The county allows discharge of a weapon for protection of the home, target shooting and hunting. Discharging a firearm is prohibited in town.

Although Davis technically lives in the county, Perkins said Chapel Hill High, which is in town limits, is less than 500 meters from where the rifles were being fired, a distance he said is well within the kill range of assault weapons.

The Army veteran, who has experience with assault weapons, noted that AR-15 assault rifles are deadly within 800 meters and that bullets fired from them have been known to kill people 1.5 miles away.

“It’s an obvious safety issue to have people firing high-powered weapons near a high school,” Perkins said Tuesday.

Perkins is weighing his next move, which could involve petitioning the Town Council at some point to see if anything can be done to prevent what he believes is a serious threat to the safety of anyone who might be in the vicinity when gun owners decide to engage in target practice.

While the men fired their weapons, Perkins said more than a 1,000 people were at Chapel Hill High and Smith Middle schools attending the annual Odyssey of the Mind competition.

“After Sandy Hook, you’d think this was insane,” Perkins wrote to council. “I am an Army veteran. I’ve been a firing range safety officer. This is outrageous behavior. Accidents happen at ranges all of the time.”

Perkins said he called 911 to report the gunfire and was told by the operator that the owner was legally shooting on his property.

He said he drove to the house after the men had been firing the weapons for about two hours and talked to the man, now identified as Davis.

“I pointed out that all it takes is one mistake and he could kill someone,” Perkins said.

He said Davis told him that he was shooting downhill and that it was safe. 

At least one member of the Town Council attended the Odyssey of the Mind competition Saturday, and weighed in with an email message to her colleagues.

 “I took note there was a Chapel Hill traffic police officer parked on Seawell School Road, undoubtedly monitoring all of the traffic from this event, and figured he at least knew about what was going on,” wrote Councilwoman Lauren Easthom. “If anything, it was really disconcerting to know such loud gunfire was happening very close.”