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Florida mother of three struck by stray bullet from target shooting

Posted at 1:41 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 13:41:00-05

INDIANTOWN, Fla. — According to investigators, a Martin County, Florida, mother of three is recovering from a gunshot wound after she was struck by a stray bullet fired by someone using her neighbor’s property for target practice.

Monday night, Heather Sitton was awaiting surgery following the shooting Sunday afternoon in Indiantown at her home near SW Arrowroot Street.

Jason Sitton, Heather’s husband, said there were numerous people in their backyard, including their three young children, when they heard gunfire at a neighboring property. They also have chickens, a mule, donkeys, pigs, and dogs.

Sitton said it is common for people in that area to use their backyards for target practice and to hear gunfire.

Sunday, however, the bullets were coming toward their property.

“I’m like, what is going on? And I started yelling at the neighbor right next to us like, 'hey are you guys doing fireworks?'" Sitton said. "And they’re like, 'no, we thought it was you.' “As soon as I said that, my wife just dropped."

His wife was shot in her shoulder, the bullet passing through her collar bone, exiting the other shoulder.

Sitton said his friend was near her when she was shot and immediately started applying pressure to her wound to slow the bleeding.

The children took cover. A family friend helped them get inside.

“I’m yelling at the top of my lungs, 'stop, you just shot my wife! Like, stop! Help! Help!' And they just kept shooting,'” Sitton said.

Heather was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

Neighbor and nearby business owner, Mark Rutizer, said he complained to the sheriff’s office just a few months ago about gunshots from the same property off of Amaryllis Street.

“I’ve said it before that someone will get shot, and unfortunately, yesterday that took place,” Rutizer said.

He said he had bullets flying over his home about a quarter of a mile away.

“You don’t want to call on your neighbors, but [you do] when your family has to duck down,” Rutizer said.

Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek said four people were shooting at the property. According to an incident report, the property owner said the four people shooting there did not have permission to shoot on his property.

Budensiek said they were shooting at a 5-foot berm.

“Unfortunately, it had about 7 or 8 feet of weeds and trees on top of it, so the bullets seemed to be passing through the trees and weeds,” Budensiek explained.

Sitton said the shooters should have known there were homes in the distance. Budensiek said the shot was fired about 900- yards away.

“It’s obvious that people are here, that we live here,” Sitton said.

Heather gave WPTV a statement saying, “I am grateful that it did not hit any of the children. I thank God that my life was spared.”

Budensiek said it is legal for people to shoot on that property and in a backyard, but precautions must be taken.

Lt. Joe Kukuvka said the weapon that was used was a high-powered rifle.

“A high-powered rifle round could travel up to a couple of miles in some circumstances…So if you’re not going to have a proper backstop, you have to have a lot of distance behind you,” Kukuvka said.

Budensiek said it might be hard to pursue criminal charges, but an investigation is ongoing.

“We may never be able to determine who fired the round accurately. All four individuals fired the gun that we believe shot the bullet that hit the victim,” Budensiek said.

They hope this serves as an essential reminder to shoot safely and always think about who might be beyond the barrel.

“Once that bullet leaves the gun, there’s no turning back. If you’re not responsible, bad things can happen to other people," Budensiek said.

Meghan McRoberts at WPTV first reported this story.