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The Cleveland Plain Dealer, (OH)

October 15, 1996 


While Billy Hugh West sat in Lake County Jail yesterday, some of his neighbors at Nye Park Apartments still grappled with what he put them through early Sunday morning.   No one can explain why West began shooting indiscriminately from the second story of his apartment, hitting one neighbor’s window.

“I woke up with the first three shots and I thought it was a BB gun,” said 25-year-old Laurie Gilchrist, who lives across the parking lot from West’s building with her husband and 3-year-old daughter. Then Gilchrist heard five more shots and a cracking sound as a bullet shot through her next-door neighbor’s second-story window, just yards from her daughter’s bedroom. “It was a frightening experience,” Gilchrist said.   Gilchrist has lived in the apartment complex at 120 Nye St. for four months. She wants West out of the complex and doing time in jail.

Maria Danko, the property manager, said she had not decided whether she will evict West and his wife. “Right now, I’m trying to assess what the damage is to the property,” Danko, of Realty One, said.  Bullet holes have been covered by pieces of cardboard taped to the neighbor’s cracked window.

West will be arraigned today on charges of felonious assault , operating a weapon while intoxicated, improperly discharging a firearm and resisting arrest.   Chief Deputy William Crosier, of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, says he believes West was taking medication for depression and drinking heavily when he began shooting out of his bedroom window with a 12-gauge shotgun. He is still awaiting the results of a drug test.

Crosier said deputy sheriffs evacuated almost 200 residents from the apartment complex after getting a call at 4:15 a.m. from a neighbor who heard gunshots. For two hours, West refused to come out of his apartment. He surrendered after the SWAT team shot pepper gas into the apartment.

Crosier was unsure what West’s motive was for the shooting. West’s wife and sister said he purchased the shotgun two weeks ago, after he was beaten up at the complex, Crosier said.  Betty Debelak, who used to live next door to West before he moved to a larger apartment across the parking lot, said she didn’t believe he was trying to hurt anyone.

“He’s a really nice guy who just went off for a little bit,” the 28-year-old said of West, who often played catch with her two sons.   But Sue Ness, who lives two doors from West, said although she didn’t know West, she was not surprised.

“I guess you kind of have to get used to it nowadays,” Ness said as she leaned against her apartment door with an eye trained on her 2-year-old daughter. “It happens. It’s just happened in our neighborhood this time.”
Caption: PHOTO by C.H. PETE COPELAND / PLAIN DEALER PHOTOGRAPHER: Betty Debelak: “He’s a really nice guy who just went off for a little bit.”

Record Number: MERLIN_633155
Copyright, 1996, The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.