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Plant City horse trainer, autistic student sprayed with bullet pellets; brother involved won't be charged

9:34 PM, Jan 4, 2013   |    comments
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PLANT CITY, Florida - A Plant City woman was working with an autistic child on her horse farm when a shot rang out and they were sprayed with the pellets from the bullet. A group of brothers are reportedly behind it, yet they are not in trouble with the law.

According to Hillsborough sheriff's deputies, the boys showed no criminal intent and had permission from their father to use the shotgun. The boys are 9, 11 14 and 15 years old. Fortunately for them, no one hurt, but a trainer, her horse, and an autistic teenage girl are definitely shaken up.

Gerri Lundergan's horses work with autistic children using equi-therapy. One child, 15-year-old Carissa Retter, has Asberger's, a form of autism.

"She's been an exceptional horse for Carissa very patient very caring," said Gerri of her horse, Mia.

Living in a rural area, Gerri's horses are used to hearing gun shots, but one duck shot fired over her property Thursday morning during a therapy session peppered her, Mia, and Carissa.

Gerri said, "We heard the shot go off immediately. It sounded like thunder rained down on us. [Carissa] got hit with the bird shot, the horse got hit with the bird shot, I got hit. The horse was panicking, she was panicking. I had to get her off the horse."

Carissa's mother, Paula Retter, said the experience traumatized her daughter. Carissa's had trouble sleeping and has been showing signs of anxiety. The incident happened on a very special day. Paula said, "Carissa said, 'This was the worst birthday. I got shot at.'"

Gerri confronted the four brothers who live nearby about the shooting as she saw them walking out from the woods carrying their shotgun. "I called them over and they said, 'So sorry, we didn't realize we were shooting your direction.'"

Gerri said the brothers often target practice in the field behind her property. There's even target practice site set up facing east by the cow pasture and in the opposite direction of her property.

"We can't afford to have someone get hurt," said Gerri.

Paula said the parents should be held responsible. "Clearly, there is a parental problem here. The guns are not locked up. There's no control."

Even though a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy responded to the incident, no arrests were made. Sgt. Jeff Massaro with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said, "As long as the child has permission from the parent to have access to guns, there's no violation of the law."

Sgt. Jeff Massaro said there also appears to be no law requiring supervision of a minor while using a gun. The deputy who responded to the incident spoke with boys' father about the potential dangers and the law. Sgt Massaro said the father, Darrell Lower, was sympathetic to the situation.

Massaro said, "He assured us he was going o secure the guns so the boys would not have access."

Yet, Friday morning, Gerri Lundergan said the boys were back out target shooting again. Their father told 10 News Thursday's incident was simply a "mistake" and an "accident."

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