When Sara Hayward heard a popping noise on March 20, she thought someone had thrown a rock at one of her windows. Finding no damage, she concluded a balloon from her recent baby shower must have popped. She would never have imagined the pop she heard was a bullet penetrating her Lea Hill home.
“This has really spooked my wife and I,” Andrew Hayward wrote on a Facebook community group. “We have a young daughter and a son due in April. The bullet Ricocheted off my daughter’s bin of stuffed animals. Thank God she was in bed and not playing.”
More Than One Shooting
The bullet that pierced the Hayward’s living room wall came from just across the wooded area, at Lea Hill Elementary. An unknown individual or individuals had fired several rounds from a 9mm handgun. The custodian at Lea Hill Elementary located multiple 9mm casings at the school.
Eight days later, on the evening of March 28, several more rounds were fired from the elementary school. Multiple casings were found at the school from two different caliber firearms, including 9mm. Luckily, none of the bullets from the second incident struck the Hayward home or any other neighborhood homes.
On the morning of Monday, March 29, Lea Hill Elementary was placed on a brief lockdown after three gunshots were reported west of the school. Police did not find any individuals or additional casings related to the reported gunshots.
Lea Hill Elementary Takes Precautions
After the initial incident, Hayward filed a police report. He has been working closely with the Auburn Police Department and the Auburn School District, both of which Hayward states have been helpful and responsive.
According to Hayward, the school district is installing additional cameras at the school. He shared the district is also is discussing the possibility of a fence and other property upgrades to prevent further crimes.
“I suspect the perpetrators see the woods as a relatively safe place to shoot into. I doubt they realize my home, and my neighbors’ homes, are right on the other side, and that rounds can make It through the woods,” Hayward said. “Ultimately, I just want the shooting to stop.”
According to Lea Hill Elementary Principal Ed Herda’s letter to Lea Hill families, multiple precautions have been set to ensure students and staff remain safe during school hours. These precautions include additional security cameras, lockdown procedure reviews, and continued communication with the Auburn Police Department.
When Hayward walked through the woods between their house on the 12900 block of SE 308th PL and Lea Hill Elementary, he saw multiple areas filled with garbage, beer cans, bottles, needles, and lighters. “I grew up here in Auburn, attended Lea Hill as a young kiddo, and am saddened to see the state of things,” he wrote on a Facebook community page.
Kalyn Brady, Communications Manager with the City of Auburn, said City staff is working to identify and contact the wooded area’s property owners to address these concerns. According to Hayward, the school district has plans to clean up the site.
If anybody has additional information or tips regarding the gunshot investigation, please contact the Auburn Police Department at 253-288-7403.