A 42-year-old Kirkland man rented a pistol and then shot himself at the Plantation Rifle Range Sunday afternoon, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the incident shortly after 3:30 p.m. at the Plantation Rifle Range, a public gun range at 5102 Samish Way.
Employees at the range told investigators the man arrived at the facility, rented a 9mm handgun and began target shooting, said WCSO Chief Criminal Deputy Doug Chadwick.
According to witnesses, the man stopped shooting for several minutes and then placed the handgun near his head and fired, Chadwick said. Witnesses and staff ran to the man’s aid and called 911.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released. Dr. Gary Goldfogel, Whatcom County medical examiner, ruled the man’s death as a suicide.
On a bench at the shooting range, the man left his car keys and directions for people to make sure his dog was taken care of. The dog was found inside his vehicle and was turned over to the Whatcom Humane Society, Chadwick said.
This is the third suicide at the range since 2009. In January that year, a Canadian man rented a handgun at the range and shot himself, and in 2010 a 34-year-old Bellingham woman rented a handgun, fired a few rounds into a target and then shot herself.
The Plantation Rifle Range is operated by the Whatcom County Parks & Recreation Department.
Parks & Recreation Director Michael McFarlane said suicides don’t happen too often at the range, and that while they have safety protocols, there is not one for preventing suicides at the range.
McFarlane said there are general restrictions such as age and not operating a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but there are no restrictions for solo shooters – and shooters are not required to have taken a safety class, hunter’s education or something similar.
“We have leagues and teams that shoot, classes, different agencies and organizations, as well as individuals. We have a wide variety of different shooters that use the range,” McFarlane said. “The range is a place where the public can come and practice shooting, take classes and learn about firearms.”
McFarlane said the range will continue to operate as normal.
The Kirkland man's age was corrected Sept. 19, 2017.