BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – The accidental discharge of a live round and the resulting 10 injured this week at the St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club prompted an internal investigation, club President Mark Creedon said.
“I was not present for the incident,” said Creedon, a Batavia resident. “The club will investigate, and at that time, we will have the facts and make a determination of how to proceed at that time.”
The private club at 44W471 Keslinger Road, Blackberry Township, has about 1,300 members, Creedon said, as well as youth teams that practice and compete.
“One thing that is good is there were no permanent injuries – that is the paramount thing here,” Creedon said.
Kane County Sheriff’s Lt. Pat Gengler said the police investigation was closed, as officials determined the shooting was accidental and no charges would be filed.
According to a sheriff’s report obtained Thursday through the Freedom of Information Act, the club member who accidentally discharged his gun was William Askwith, 69, of St. Charles. He told police he “pointed the gun at the floor and pulled the trigger, at which point a live .12-gauge round went off and struck the floor,” according to the report.
Askwith had finished shooting on the range and came into the clubhouse about 7:30 p.m., according to the report.
“He opened the breach on his Baretta .12-gauge, lever-action shotgun and intended to insert a ‘snap cap’ into the weapon … Askwith explained that a snap cap is an inert round that is placed in the chamber of the weapon before the trigger is pulled to keep the firing pin from getting damaged,” the report stated.
Askwith told sheriff’s deputies that he did not know there was a live round in the weapon. When the buckshot from the live round hit the floor, 10 people in the clubhouse were hit with bits of the ricocheting discharge, police said.
The three taken to Delnor Hospital in Geneva were Joseph C. Bopp of West Chicago, Michael A. Maroscia of Somonauk and a 14-year-old boy from Geneva. All were treated and released, police said. Maroscia would not comment. Bopp did not have a listed phone number and could not be reached.
Pascale Rapp, 44 and James Harris, 40, were among the six who were treated at the scene, though police did not release their hometowns. Neither had listed phone numbers.
Four male juveniles were treated at the scene, a 9-year-old from West Chicago, a 17-year-old from Elburn, and two other boys aged 11 and 15, but police did not know what towns they were from.
Askwith was driven to Delnor, where he was treated and released. Askwith did not return a voicemail message left at his home.
John Wilbur, 19, of Geneva, said he was shooting on the range with a youth league when the accidental discharge occurred.
“I was actually outside the clubhouse,” said Wilbur, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Waubonsee Community College. “A lady came out of the clubhouse and said, ‘A firearm went off in the club, everybody be careful. If you’re out, stay out; if you’re in, stay in.’”
Wilbur said he witnessed a few of the injuries.
“They were just minor; nobody was hit in the face,” Wilbur said. “They were little shots half the size of a BB, and very few penetrated the skin. They were all ricochets – off the floor, off the walls. A couple were in the chest, the back, arms and legs … paramedics removed them with tweezers. They could have used their fingers, but they used tweezers to be careful.”
Wilbur said the artificial shell or snap cap looks like a live shell, as they are the same color and shape.
“They are basically an artificial shell used to release the pressure of the spring when storing the gun,” Wilbur said. “Now, they mainly make them in a see-through plastic and they are a shorter length than a shell.”
Wilbur said Askwith is distraught about what happened.
“He feels the worst about it. [Askwith] is one of the nicest people I know, a great guy,” Wilbur said.