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Alleged bowling ball barrage leads to charges

An errant bowling ball allegedly shot from a cannon during 2015 Fourth of July festivities led to criminal charges against a Spring Valley man.

One ball blasted through the roof of a town of Richmond barn, leading to thousands of dollars’ in damages, according to a criminal complaint filed against 65-year-old Ricky A. Thorne.

St. Croix County prosecutors charged the Spring Valley man with one count of felony second-degree recklessly endangering safety. He is also charged with misdemeanor negligent handling of a weapon.

A dead horse with a head wound was also found on the property the day the damage was discovered, though authorities said no direct connection could be established between its death and the cannon fire.

Thorne made his initial court appearance Feb. 11 in St. Croix County Circuit Court, where Judge Eric Lundell ordered him to post a $2,500 signature bond.

According to a criminal complaint:

St. Croix County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched July 5 to 1341 Highway 65 for damage to a building by an apparent bowling ball strike.

A resident said she discovered a large hole in the roof of her horse barn and found a bowling ball on the floor near a horse stall.

The resident said she suspected the ball had been fired from a cannon at a neighboring property the previous night; the bowling ball was found scratched and smeared with what appeared to be grease.

The cannon shots were fired while her guests were sleeping in camper trailers outside her barn, the woman said, “and opined a bowling ball dropping on them probably would have resulted in their death,” a deputy wrote in the complaint.

The woman told the deputy she didn’t report the cannon fire as it happened because she didn’t realize the barn damage at the time and didn’t want to interfere with the neighbors’ Fourth of July celebration.

Damage to the barn was estimated at $3,000 to $4,000.

The deputy went to the neighboring property at 1332 130th Ave., where the homeowner said her brother had been there the previous night with his cannon. She estimated 10 bowling balls had been shot from the cannon between 4-7:30 p.m.

The resident said her brother, Thorne, had assured her that the bowling balls would land in her property due to the trajectory of fire and would embed themselves in the ground “so deep that no one would be able to find them,” the complaint states.

She told the deputy her brother was a firearms enthusiast. She trusted he knew what he was doing.

The deputy spoke with Thorne by phone and described the report. Thorne immediately apologized, saying he didn’t expect the cannon fire to affect the neighbors at all.

“He admitted they had been shooting bowling balls out of a cannon but seemed surprised that any of them could have reached a neighbor’s property, much less impact a building,” the complaint states.

Witnesses said bowling pins were also shot out of the cannon during the Fourth of July party.

The victim of the damage at first said she planned to sort out the problem through insurance companies, but later called the deputy to report she found more bowling balls and bowling pins in her field.

The woman later found one of her horses dead in a pasture on the property.

She reported seeing the horse alive earlier in the day. A lump on its head was observed after being found dead.

She suspected the fatal injury was caused by a flying bowling ball, though she “knew there was no way to prove that a bowling ball or pin hit the horse causing it to die,” the complaint states.

No bowling balls or pins were found near the horse, which was valued at about $10,000.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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