Collier girl hit by stray bullet from neighbor's property

Posted at 11:55 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2017-05-24 11:36:25-04

A Collier County teen and her family are living in fear over stray bullets. 

14-year-old Deborah Ledesma said when she heard shots being fired near her home on 37th Avenue Northeast last week, she was concerned that her mom was too close to the sliding glass door. When Deborah lifted her arm to put around her mother's shoulder to move her away, a bullet shattered the glass and hit her in the hand, stopping just below her left ring finger. 

"It's in a lot of pain right now," Ledesma said, whose hand is in a cast. "The pain doesn't go away."

Deputies arrested 21-year-old Harold Lanham, who lives in a property behind Ledesma's house. He was charged with shooting a missile into a dwelling.

According to an incident report, deputies determined that although a berm of sand about 3 feet high was in place, intended to stop bullets for Lanham's backyard target practice, Ledesma's home was just beyond in a direct line of fire.

"This was a tragic result, this young lady (getting) hurt," said Mike Chionopolous, Lanham's attorney. "But he wasn't doing anything illegal."

Chionopolous said that Lanham is torn up over Ledesma's injury, but maintains that his client was acting within his Second Amendment rights, as well as Florida law, which allows people to fire weapons on private property.

"There's no doubt this was a tragedy," Chionopolous said. "But I'm sorry, sometimes accidents happen, and that doesn't mean somebody's committed a crime simply because there's a tragic outcome."

According to Ledesma, that tragic outcome could have been much worse.  "It hit me up here," she said, raising her arm to neck level. "If I wouldn't have stopped the bullet, it would have hit me in the neck, or it would have hit my mom, because I was moving my mom at the time."

Ledesma said she understands the law, but believes that people who use their property for a shooting range should take extra precautions.  "Before you shoot randomly, you need to make sure you're not going to get somebody else's property," she said. "Now every time I stand next to the window, I think 'where could a bullet come from?'"

Lanham bonded out of jail, but was initially charged with discharging a firearm in public.

Chionopolous believes his client was overcharged, and points out that Lanham was on his own property.