American Legion Post 253

An 18-year-old Festus man was shot Sunday when he was changing targets during a shooting match at American Legion Post 253 in Festus.

An 18-year-old from Festus was shot Sunday (Feb. 23) while he was changing targets at a shooting match at American Legion Post 253, 849 American Legion Drive, in Festus. It appeared to be an accidental shooting, Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis said.

“A young man who was changing targets ran out to the target area and was shot,” Lewis said. “The victim was shot in the left arm, left chest area. He took the full blast.”

Lewis said the victim suffered serious injuries from the shotgun blast and was taken by Joachim-Plattin Ambulance to Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City. Then, the victim was transported by helicopter to Mercy Hospital South in south St. Louis County, where he was treated and released, a hospital spokesman said today (Feb. 25).

Lewis would not release the Festus teen’s name. He also wouldn’t release the name of the 67-year-old Arnold man who shot the teen.

The shooting occurred at about 2:30 p.m. It is still under investigation, Lewis said Monday (Feb. 24).

He said it appears the shooting was the result of confusion over a code word used to alert competitors and those who change the targets that it’s safe to go to the target area.

“They use a code word saying the range is ‘OK,’” Lewis said. “If they hear the word, it’s supposed to be safe. There was some misunderstanding over what was said.”

Harry Barnes Jr., the Post 253 commander, said he sympathizes with the victim, but noted that the teen ran onto the shooting range at the wrong time.

“The board runner was at fault,” Barnes said. “I’m just real sorry that it happened.”

He said board runners are instructed to wait until the code word “Out” is announced before running into the shooting range to change targets, and the code word had not been announced at the time of the shooting.

“‘Out’ means go ahead and change the targets,” he said.

Barnes said a similar incident occurred years ago before he was involved with the post’s shooting matches.

“One time, about 15 to 18 years ago, it was a similar incident,” he said. “A board runner was shot. In his mind he heard ‘Out,’ but it hadn’t been said.”

Post officials are looking into installing a gate where the board runners enter the shooting area in an effort to reduce the chance of similar accidents happening in the future, Barnes said.

“We’re looking to put an electronic gate in that can only be opened by the range master,” he said.

Barnes said participation in the shooting matches varies from week to week, but the event averages “about 100 or more” competitors at each match.