ATWATER (CBS13) — A Merced County mayor has been stripped of his gun and cited for illegally firing it off at Castle Airport.
Investigators say Atwater Mayor Jim Price was shooting at squirrels from his truck on the active airfield while people were nearby, including one man who says a bullet came a little too close and called 911.
“It was just a crazy day,” said James Allen.
It started as a quiet Thursday afternoon. James Allen, 26, parked in his car just outside castle airport and was reading a book, when he heard the shot.
“I heard a pop and a snap go over my head.”
His peace and quiet was interrupted by gunshots fired from a moving truck.
“He was shooting in my direction,” he said.
Allen says he even heard a bullet ricochet right past him.
“As you can imagine, I got pretty scared, and I bounced.”
Allen then called the police, and shortly after, multiple Merced County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene and surrounded the truck where the shots were fired.
Inside was Mayor Jim Price.
“To find out that it was the mayor shooting in the direction where people jog and have lunch and stuff like that, mind-blowing; like I could not believe it,” said Allen.
According to Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, Price owns a side business providing fuel services at the airport and was allegedly shooting squirrels to keep them off the flight path. The problem is, the sheriff says, Mayor Price doesn’t have a permit to shoot wildlife or to fire a gun on a flight path.
Allen said, “That is the dumbest thing a person could possibly do- shooting live rounds on an airfield.”
The mayor was cited for both violations on scene. His rifle was taken away and he was ordered to give up his concealed carry permit, which was issued by the Atwater police chief.
It’s a slap on the wrist, Allen says, for behavior that put his life in jeopardy.
“He should definitely be held to a higher standard. Honestly, I was terrified.”
CBS13 did reach out to Mayor Price, who declined to comment on the advice of his attorney.