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Youth fires bullet into house

Youth fires bullet into house

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A 12-year-old boy fired a single round from a .22-caliber rifle through the window of a neighbor's home Tuesday morning, but the shot may have been fired accidentally.

Missoula police Lt. Jim Neumayer said the boy, who stayed home from school Tuesday, stepped onto the back deck of his home at 165 N. Easy St. with the rifle shortly before 10 a.m.

"It appears that he was just handling the gun and it discharged," Neumayer said.

The bullet traveled about 120 yards, through two back yards and across a cul de sac, then broke through a doubled-paned window at 192 Jason Court, the home of Dick and Mary Whitaker. The bullet finally lodged in a closet wall.

"The shot went right over a couch and right past an ironing board," Neumayer said. "It's just incredibly fortunate no one was in that room."

Mary Whitaker described a "loud crash" when the bullet struck the window, Neumayer said.

City police scrambled throughout the Hellgate Canyon neighborhood, looking for the vantage point from which the shot had been fired. Although the shot could have come from the nearby railroad track or as far away as Mount Jumbo's south flank, officers eventually settled in front of 165 N. Easy.

The back deck of that home offers a open view of the homes on Jason Court. Neumayer said the unidentified boy did not know the Whitakers.

At one point, police shined a laser through the bullet hole back toward the boy's home, hoping to pinpoint the firing spot. They later determined the location by interviewing the boy, whose mother was called to the house before the boy was interviewed.

Police Lt. Gary Casey said the case will be referred to Youth Court, but it's not clear that charges will be filed against the boy.

Wednesday - 2/10/99

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