An Ellicott City man whose stray bullet shattered the front window of a Howard County day care center last week has been charged with negligent hunting by Maryland Natural Resources Police.
Investigators said yesterday that Richard Vernon Hoenes Jr., 41, fired his shotgun several times Dec. 10 at a deer that was between him and Kids Time Out in Clarksville. One of the slugs traveled about 277 yards through a farm field and woods, and hit the window. The slug was found on the windowsill.
No one was injured in the shooting, which Howard County police labeled accidental.
Maryland Natural Resources Police conducted a separate investigation and determined that while Hoenes was well beyond the 150-yard buffer zone between hunters and occupied buildings required by state law, he failed to take into account what was beyond his target, a violation of one of the fundamental tenets of hunter safety.
Hoenes, of 11024 Gaither Farm Road, also was charged with failing to check in his deer within 24 hours.
The maximum fine for a first offense of negligent hunting is $1,500, and hunting privileges can be suspended for up to five years. The fine for a check-in violation is $250.
Hoenes is scheduled to appear in Howard County District Court on Jan. 22.
Hoenes did not return calls to his home.
Rona Kuikendall, owner of Kids Time Out, said the shooting has hurt business. "I'm furious. My revenue is down 65 percent since the incident. Parents are afraid to bring their children in."
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman walked the area Monday evening as he grapples with legislation to make hunting safer. He said options include increasing the safety buffer beyond what the state requires or expanding the Metro District, east of Route 108, where shooting is not allowed, to include newly developed areas farther west.
"There's a way to hunt safely," he said. "Clearly in my mind they never should have been shooting that close."