WILMINGTON — A public defender for a Wilmington woman charged with reckless endangerment asked a judge to let his client keep a gun to scare bear out of her yard.
“There’s no allegation here from my read of these affidavits that the firearm was ever discharged at one of the other residences named here or at their property or even in the direction necessarily of their property,” said Josh Atkisson, who then added “There’s some information alleging that targets were hung near the property line. ... I don’t see any information that those targets were actually shot at in any way.”
Evidence collected at the woman’s home indicate Shelly Sousa, 62, fired her 12 gauge shotgun from outside her back basement door “to scare away a number of black bears who have seemingly decided to make her residence their residence for the time being judge.”
“We certainly understand the argument that the defendant should be allowed to enjoy her property,” said Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver in court on Tuesday. “But we also feel that the neighbors have a right to enjoy their property without fear of being shot, which is clearly what they’re afraid of, otherwise they would have not contacted the Wilmington Police Department.”
On May 10, Chief of Police Matt Murano and four officers with the Wilmington Police Department responded to a complaint from one of Sousa’s neighbors.
“While speaking with him,” wrote Officer Shawn Hammond in an affidavit presented to the court. “I could observe many paper targets hung on trees facing [the complainant’s] property.”
The neighbor told police when he asked Sousa “if this was really necessary,” he wrote, “she said it was her property and she can do whatever she wants.”
The neighbor also told police that he found several beer cans and shotgun shells on the property line.
Another neighbor told police he was worried about getting shot by Sousa.
“He explained that he was inside his shop working when he heard multiple gunshots shortly before our arrival,” wrote Hammond. “During the shooting he could here what he explained as ‘bird shot pellets’ landing on the metal roof to his shop.”
While speaking with the man, Hammond wrote that he observed more paper targets lining the property line.
Wilmington officers served a search warrant on the property and determined Sousa had fired her shotgun in the direction of three nearby homes and the road with “no solid backdrop and could shoot directly at the residences and the Route 9 West corridor and passing motorists.”
During a search of Sousa’s home, officers also found seven “fully matured” pot plants in a grow tent on the third floor with another 30 seedlings under a grow lamp in the first floor dining area on the first floor of the residence.
“We seized 25 of the seedlings and five of the mature marijuana plants as evidence and left the defendant with the legal amount of each,” wrote Hammond.
Shriver told the court that Sousa, who was on probation two years ago, had difficulty following her conditions.
“We’re talking about firearms, and I think that we need to be more protective and less concerned about Miss Sousa’s enjoyment of her property and more concerned about the fear that her neighbors have expressed to the police,” said Shriver.
The judge agreed with the conditions suggested by the state.
“You shall abide by no trespass notices,” Judge Michael Kainen. “So you’re okay to go to the edge of your property as long as they’re not right there you’re not crowding in. You understand that you have no contact so you can’t go right up to your property line and yell ...”?
“I’ve never done that,” responded Sousa. “And I’ve never violated any probation either.”
Sousa was released on conditions.