INDIANTOWN, Fla. — A Florida mother of three was recovering from a bullet wound, after she was struck by a stray bullet fired by someone using her neighbor’s property for target practice, investigators said.
On Monday, Heather Sitton was awaiting surgery following the incident which happened on Sunday afternoon in Indiantown, Florida.
Jason Sitton, Heather’s husband, said there were numerous people in their backyard at the time, including their three young children, when they heard gunfire at a neighboring property. The family also has chickens, a mule, a donkey, pigs and dogs on their property as well.
Sitton said it is common for people in the area to use their backyards for target practice, and to hear gunfire.
On Sunday, however, the bullets came in the direction of the family's 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, with the bullet passing through her collar bone and exiting her other shoulder.
Sitton said his friend was right near her when she was shot and immediately started applying pressure to her wound to slow the bleeding.
Their children had to take cover, as 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.
The mother was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, which would have been nearly an hour away by car.
Mark Rutizer, who is a neighbor and nearby business owner, said that he had complained to the sheriff’s office just a few months ago about gunfire from the same property.
“I’ve said it before that someone will get shot and unfortunately yesterday that took place,” Rutizer said.
Lt. Joe Kukuvka said the firearm that was used was a high-powered rifle and that a bullet from that weapon “could travel up to a couple 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,” he said.
According to Rutizer, he said he witnessed bullets flying over his home from 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.
According to Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek, there were four people shooting firearms at the property. An incident report detailed how the owner of the property said that the four people shooting there did not have permission to shoot on his property.
Chief Deputy Budensiek confirmed that the individuals were said to be aiming at a 5-foot berm, but there was a major issue with that, he said.
“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. He said the shot that hit the mother of three was fired from about 900 yards away.
Sitton said the shooters should have known there were homes in the distance. “It’s obvious that people are here, that we live here,” he said.
Heather said in a statement, “I am grateful that it did not hit any of the children. I thank God that my life was spared.”
Chief Deputy Budensiek said it is legal for people in that part of Florida to shoot on a property and in a backyard, but precautions should be taken. Budensiek says it might be hard to pursue criminal charges, but an investigation is ongoing.
“We may never be able to accurately determine who actually fired the round. All four individuals fired the gun that we believe shot the bullet that hit the victim,” Budensiek said.
This story was originally published by Meghan McRoberts of Scripps station WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.