A Center Grove area woman knows if she sits outside, she’ll hear traffic, cheers and band practice from Center Grove High School and shooting from a nearby resident’s home.
Although Maureen Dempewolf and some of her neighbors don’t like the shooting happening by their homes, they know no laws are being broken, since they live in an unincorporated part of Johnson County.
When Kyle Coy decides to shoot on his family’s 10.5-acre property off Stones Crossing Road, he knows he can expect a sheriff’s deputy to pull down his long and winding drive.
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But he also knows he has taken every precaution to shoot safely, including calling police officers to OK the set up and positioning targets in valleys so he has to shoot down from a nearby hill.
Coy’s property is one of few rural properties in the Center Grove area, especially off of Stones Crossing Road, where his property is surrounded by subdivisions and bordered by Center Grove High School.
But if you turn onto his driveway and head toward his home, you would never know you are in a growing suburb of Indianapolis. The property is lined with trees, hills and chicken coops.
As of 2010, the population of the Center Grove area had swelled to more than 42,500 people, and development has continued since then, including a new 387-home neighborhood that is planned. But the area is in the unincorporated part of White River Township, meaning the laws are the same as other, more rural areas of the county.
In nearby Greenwood, residents must follow rules about noise or prohibiting shooting in city limits, but those don’t apply in the Center Grove area, which doesn’t have a town or city government.
County rules say that residents can shoot on their property if they are more than 100 feet away from another home, business or school building.
On Coy’s property, target practice is perfectly legal. He also has made sure no bullets will go anywhere outside of his 10.5 acres by arranging his targets in the lowest part of his property, so he has to shoot into his own land. He also only shoots when it’s light out, so he can see where his bullets go. Coy and his business partner Anthony Manza stick to target shooting, even though deer often walk onto his property, they said.
“We do target shooting because we don’t know where the deer is, and we don’t want to be unsafe,” Manza said.
Some neighbors are asking for the county commissioners to revise the current rules, and require that homes or other buildings have to be further away than 100 feet in order to shoot, Dempewolf said.
“Think of how far a bullet will travel,” Dempewolf said.
Commissioner Ron West said he has exchanged emails with neighbors in the Center Grove area, but said he has not heard from anyone who wanted the ordinance changed, he said.
Neighbors also have suggested that their subdivision request to be annexed into Greenwood or create a new town so there would be stricter rules against shooting on a residential property.
“They’re willing to pay more taxes to get rid of me shooting,” Coy said.
Residents have called police to report shots fired at Coy’s residence more than five times in the past three years, and now the deputies know his address by heart, Coy said. If a resident does complain, typically Coy gets a phone call from a deputy to ask if he’s shooting, Coy said. And, if a deputy does stop by, they usually pull into Coy’s driveway, talk to Coy for about five minutes, then leave, Coy said.
Sheriff Doug Cox said the sheriff’s office does get calls from residents concerned about shooting, but officers will usually drive by a home or around the area to see where the shots are coming from, he said.
Other neighbors have reached out to Coy. Coy offered to meet with Mark Matthews, who lives in nearby Forest Hills, so Matthews could see how Coy did target practice at home, Matthews said.
“For me, my concern originally was the proximity to the school,” Matthews said. “He openly and physically offered to say, ‘I thought about it one day when school was in session, and I thought that that was a bad idea, because how do they know it’s not an active shooter?’”
Coy typically does not shoot during the school day as a safety precaution, he said.
“While the neighbor’s target practice does concern us, it’s Center Grove’s understanding that the homeowner is not violating any laws or county ordinances,” Center Grove schools spokeswoman Stacy Conrad said.
Coy also discussed with Matthews every complaint neighbors had about his shooting. The complaints ranged from shooting during school hours or while students are practicing outside and firing his gun at night. Coy was open to changing when he shoots because of the neighbors’ complaints and suggestions, and Matthews and Coy swapped phone numbers. Now, Coy will stop shooting when Matthews calls, such as if a neighbor’s relative in the military is in town, and the gunfire triggers his post-traumatic stress disorder, or if it will disrupt a holiday family gathering, Matthews said.
Neighbors said they have heard the shooting less often in the past four months, and they know Coy will put his gun down if asked. But some still question if target practice should be allowed where a school is less than 1,500 feet away.
“This is not the wild, wild west,” Dempewolf said. “This is Center Grove.”
Dempewolf understands that Coy grew up when White River Township had about 15,000 fewer residents than it does today, but the area has developed and progressed, she said. Now, Coy is in the minority by owning multiple acres of land, she said.
“You’re not going to stop progress,” Dempewolf said. “It’s not country here anymore, and we can’t change that.”
Although nearby Stones Crossing Road has thousands of cars driving on it every day, Coy still considers his property as country land, he said. And since he knows that the chances of him shooting a person are slim-to-none, since he shoots down into a hill on his own property, his neighbors have no reason to worry, Coy said.
“It’s hillbilly country out here,” Coy said. “They’re all paranoid that somehow, I don’t know how, but we’re going to hit the school.”
Changing the current county rule to stop Coy from shooting on his property is not likely, since the area near Center Grove High School is unlike much of unincorporated Johnson County, Matthews said.
“If you look at it from a whole county, we’re one small, inhabited, populated, dense section of what is really farmland and people like him who want to do what he’s doing,” Matthews said.
Under rules for unincorporated Johnson County, shooting a weapon on your own property is allowed in unincorporated Johnson County unless:
- You’re within 100 feet of an occupied structure, such as a home, business or school.
- The bullets cross any public street, sidewalk or alley
- You are shooting across another person’s property without their permission
A first-time violation costs $50, and every violation after could cost between $100 and $7,500 per instance
Source: Johnson County Weapons Discharge Ordinance