Harvard man charged with reckless firing of gun

Stray bullet strikes cat food bag carried by rural Woodstock resident

WOODSTOCK – A Harvard man was charged after a stray bullet he fired during target practice struck a bag of cat food in the arms of a rural Woodstock woman.

Kirk McDowell, 48, 105 Dewey St., allegedly fired a round from a high-caliber handgun near the 3500 block of Lily Pond Road, Woodstock, at about 1:40 p.m. Sunday, according to a release by the McHenry County Sheriff's Office. He is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, a Class 4 felony.

Police determined that several people were shooting at homemade targets like milk jugs and cardboard boxes outside a residence in the 9600 block of Route 14 in Woodstock, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.

While shooting in the unincorporated area isn't illegal, Zinke said, the group hadn't taken necessary precautions to avoid an incident. A shot by McDowell ricocheted off a metal object, striking the bag of cat food, Zinke said. He estimated it traveled about a tenth of a mile.

Zinke said he could not say whether the bag's positioning made it a shield for the woman's body, preventing injury.

"That would be pure speculation," Zinke said. "The bag certainly slowed the bullet down."

Police found the bullet on the ground near where it struck the bag.

The resident – unidentified in the release – told police that she had heard gunfire south of her home before the incident.

Zinke urged those who shoot on their property to take steps to ensure they're doing it safely, like putting up a berm behind the target – a precaution not taken Sunday.

"People don't realize how far bullets can travel," he said.

McDowell's bond has been set at $10,000.

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