Woman at beach struck by bullet

Kim Wilkins was enjoying a day at the beach with her grandchildren.

She heard someone shooting, not far away.

The beach scene changed dramatically in an instant.

She was hit.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, a stray bullet, fired by someone probably north of the Chapman State Park beach area, struck Wilkins, of Russell, in the left shoulder at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

According to Wilkins’ mother, Jane Conquer of Starbrick, the rifle bullet broke her arm above the elbow, damaged an artery, and lodged in her shoulder.

Wilkins was flown by emergency helicopter to UPMC Hamot, where she underwent surgery Saturday night, Conquer said. A stent was surgically inserted into the damaged artery.

“She’s doing OK,” Conquer said. “The bullet is still lodged in her shoulder.”

Wilkins was just sitting at the beach. People, including her grandchildren, were all around.

A few minutes before, Wilkins had been holding her 3-year-old granddaughter, Conquer said.

“My daughter and her son heard the shots,” Conquer said. Several in a row – “like an automatic.”

“Then she was hit,” she said. “There were people around her, but nobody really knew what happened.”

“Her son was frantic,” she said. “There was no cell phone service.”

The emergency call was made from the beach concession building.

Conquer said the family would like to “thank everybody for all their prayers. We had tons of calls. It was ballistic on Facebook.”

Police believe someone fired a rifle into the air somewhere north of the beach area and are treating the incident as a case of reckless endangerment.

“Numerous other people were at the beach,” police said.

Wilkins was flown by emergency helicopter to UPMC Hamot in Erie for treatment. According to family reports, Wilkins underwent surgery and is expected to recover.

Police continue to investigate and are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact Pennsylvania State Police at 728-3600 or Warren County Crime Stoppers at (800) 832-7463.

Assisting state police were the Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Sheffield Township Police Department, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Police did not report any connection between the shooting and the Women’s Outdoor Workshops! events held Saturday at Chapman.

Among the WOW! events was some firearms training, including live fire.

State police spoke briefly with WOW! officials as part of their investigation, according to organizing committee chairman Jess Arnold. Police did not report any connection between WOW! and the shooting.

The WOW! shooting events are held, by permit, on a remote site in state game lands southwest of the park, according to Arnold. Firearms may not be discharged on park grounds.

WOW! firearms Instructors are NRA certified to teach gun and hunter safety, she said. Teaching people the importance of firearm safety, including avoiding negligently injuring someone, is the point of the shooting portion of the workshops.

“We want people to be safe and to learn about it,” Arnold said, “so they don’t go do something stupid.”