Mike Relihan couldn’t sleep Monday night.
Hours earlier, a 51-year-old man who seemed perfectly pleasant came to the indoor shooting range that Relihan owns, rented a gun, received instruction, fired at targets and committed suicide with a shot to his head in one of the firing booths.
Now, Relihan worries that someone else will do the same thing.
“It shouldn’t happen,” he said.
The shooting Monday afternoon, at the Bullseye Shooting Range, 1455 N. Terrace, is the second time in a month that someone has committed suicide at a Wichita shooting range. On Dec. 2, authorities said, a man died at a hospital after suffering an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head at the Bullet Stop, 2625 W. Pawnee.
Relihan was at Bullseye on Monday when the man shot himself, then fell back into an aisle, where he was visible to about 25 people. Another 25 people were at the range when it happened and were indirectly exposed to it.
“It’s an awful thing for that many people to be exposed to,” said Relihan, 57.
At the time of the suicide, the range was full of men, women and children, shooters ages 8 to 80. It was a holiday. There were visitors from Australia, families, a retired police officer, an EMT, a teenage girl.
“And we were having a good time,” Relihan said.
When the staff ushered everyone out of the range immediately after the shooting, the teenager had to step around the man’s body. The teen is the niece of one of the shooting instructors.
“He’s kind of worried about his niece,” Relihan said.
“I’m worried about my guys.”
The staff works hard to “make this a safe place, a safe and fun place,” Relihan said.
One of the things that doesn’t make sense is that the man who killed himself had seemed fine to Relihan and the other staff.
“He was nice and I talked with him. He said he wanted to come to learn to shoot. He was shooting well” at the targets.
“You couldn’t say this guy was depressed.”
At the Bullseye, anyone who rents a gun has to leave an ID while shooting. A person renting a handgun has to be 21 or older; 18 or older to rent a rifle. Children can fire at the range if they are 8 or older and supervised by a parent or guardian. A parent has to sign a waiver.
The requirements are pretty consistent among shooting ranges and partly set by law, Relihan said. His range is monitored by staff and by cameras. Those who rent guns receive instruction depending on their experience and need.
The staff pays extra attention to new shooters. When Relihan tapped on the man’s shoulder and asked whether everything was OK, the man turned around, smiled and nodded.
“He was having fun, it looked like.”
At one point, the man looked from side to side. Relihan wonders now whether the man was trying to make sure he wouldn’t hurt anyone around him.
Tuesday morning, Relihan said he got a call from a friend of the man. The friend was crying and apologizing that the shooting happened at the range.
If anyone might be considering something similar, Relihan said, he would want them to know about the impact suicide has. About the hurt it causes, the trauma to others.
“There are repercussions to it,” he said. “It’s their family and all the people around it.
“We just don’t want this to happen again.”