September 19, 2014

Medina
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Volpone trial: Officer could hear bullets whiz by

MEDINA — On Jan. 16, Montville Township police Sgt. Matthew Neil responded to a 911 call that two homes on Parnham Drive were struck by bullets.

Neil said gunfire had ceased when he arrived, and he was trying to determine where the bullets came from when “a barrage” of shots sounded through the neighborhood.

“I could hear them whiz by my head,” Neil said in Medina County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday. “I had never heard that before.”

R. Daniel Volpone, left, and his attorney, David Sheldon, stand Wednesday in the backyard of 5544 Windfall Road, Montville Township. Volpone is on trial, accused of firing a semiautomatic assault rifle at a target in the backyard and unintentionally hitting two houses on the other side of the woods. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY NICK GLUNT)

A nine-woman, three-man jury heard Neil’s testimony as part of R. Daniel Volpone’s first day of trial.

Volpone, 45, of Parma, is accused of firing the gun — a semiautomatic version of an AK-47 assault rifle — with his friend, Mark Bornino, at paper targets without backstops in Bornino’s backyard, 5544 Windfall Road, Montville Township.

The houses that were hit are about a third of a mile away.

No one was injured in the shooting.

Volpone is charged with firing a gun over a public road, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

County Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara said bullets passed over Parnham Drive to strike a house at 2907 Parnham. He said a bullet also struck 2902 Parnham Drive.

Volpone’s attorney, David Sheldon, said he and his client don’t deny his bullets hit the houses. However, Sheldon said Volpone shouldn’t be convicted because he didn’t act recklessly.

In opening arguments, Sheldon said Volpone had fired guns on Bornino’s property in 2005 without any problems. But Volpone wasn’t aware that, since then, the Parnham Drive neighborhood had been built.

When Volpone arrived with the gun, Bornino already had the targets — made of paper or cardboard and without backstops — set up in his yard, Sheldon said.

Volpone, who has taken 20 hours of Ohio Police Officer Training Academy classes and carries a firearm as part of his job as a security officer, fired the gun at a downward angle. By doing so, he hoped to use the ground as a “natural backstop,” Sheldon said.

At the trial, the jury heard from residents from both homes struck by bullets.

Nina-jo Seither, who lived at 2902 Parnham Drive but has since moved, said she was eating a sandwich when she heard something unfamiliar.

After looking around her house, she found a hole in a wall and called 911.

Across the street at 2907 Parnham, Mary Kuruc and her adult daughter, Karrie Kuruc, said they also heard an odd sound.

“It sounded to me like a picture fell off the wall downstairs,” Mary Kuruc said.

The two women looked around their house to find the source, and Karrie Kuruc said she spotted drywall and debris on the floor and a couch in the living room.

She said she thought a pipe had burst in the wall. She went outside to take a look, she said, and that’s when she realized there was a bullet hole.

She called 911 as well, and police — including Sgt. Neil — arrived shortly afterward.

Neil said he used Google Maps to deduce the bullets may have come from Windfall Road, which lies to the east through a patch of woods and sent over officers to investigate.

That’s when another wave of shots went off, he said.

Township patrol officers Richard Percy and Ryan Gibbons reported they found Volpone and Bornino and ordered them to the ground at gunpoint.

Police arrested the men and seized the rifle, two high-capacity magazines and three handguns — a 9 mm, a 280-caliber and a 22-caliber.

Also seized were 628 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition for the rifle and about 100 cartridges for the pistols.

Mary Kuruc said her insurance company valued the damage to her home at about $3,000.

After he was released on bail, Volpone went to the Kuruc home to apologize and offer to pay for the damage. Mary Kuruc said on the stand she believed he was sincere.

Volpone’s trial is scheduled to continue today at 9 a.m. before county Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.