A Loudoun County man and his friend fired high-powered weapons into a bale of hay for target practice Monday, unaware that their bullets were ripping into a neighbor's house and pinning down four occupants in terror for nearly an hour.
"I was just praying that the shooting would stop and everyone would be all right," said John Lindsay, 14, who, together with his sister, Margaret, 17, sought safety on a closet floor under a heap of clothes during the bizarre episode.
Lindsay's mother, Judith, 43, an invalid aunt, Eunice Townsend, and her live-in nurse, Ena Lagne, also lay helplessly as about 25 bullets pierced the house, penetrating interior walls, shattering glass, splintering furniture and leaving approximately 60 bullet holes.
"It looked like a firefight was going on in there," said one county official of the aftermath.
No one was hurt in the fusillade, which occurred two miles south of Leesburg. Fifteen sheriff's deputies -- answering the Lindsays' plea for help -- also were pinned down by the gunfire. The sheriff's department said one officer, fearing a sniper's attack, re- turned the fire and emptied his service revolver.
A few hundred yards away, neighbor Alan Goodpasture, 23, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, and a friend from South Carolina, Ralph Hunn, fired round after round at the hay bale, directly in line with the Lindsay home.
Loudoun prosecutor Donald Devine said yesterday the two men were wearing earmuffs to deaden the sound of their gunfire and apparently did not hear commands to cease fire.
Goodpasture and Hunn, a dance instructor from Myrtle Beach, S.C., were charged yesterday with shooting into an occupied dwelling, destruction of property and reckless use of a firearm. If convicted, the two face up to six years in jail and $2,500 fines.
Last March, a bullet shattered a bedroom window of the Lindsay's home as a carpenter was finishing work on the interior of the house. The incident was reported to the Loudoun County sheriff, but no arrest was made, according to the family.
Monday's shooting incident began about 3:30 p.m. as Judith Lindsay stood upstairs in her three-month-old "dream home," a $175,000 Cape Cod colonial on a treeless, 10-acre lot.
"I heard a mild explosion, a cracking like a light bulb," she said. "I looked downstarirs and saw three bullets embedded in the wall." She screamed in terror.
"I knew what it was. I tried to get into a part of the house as far away from the entry of the bullets as possible and I phoned the police," she said. Within minutes of her call to the Loudoun County sheriff's office, carloads of deputies arrived.
"There is a bullet hole right through my daughter's portrait," said Lindsay. Another bullet is embedded in an antique table. Curtains were ripped. Plaster spattered. Another bullet is embedded in Lindsay's mattress.
In the midst of the shooting, her son and daughter returned home from school. They fled into an upstairs closet. Between volleys, as the distant marksmen reloaded their guns, deputies entered the house and led the two teen-agers into the basement where they remained until the shooting stopped.
"I thought there was a sniper, that someone was trying to kill me. Why, I asked. Target practice never entered my mind because I didn't think anyone would be that foolish in such a close situation," said Lindsay.
The deputies fanned out in a mile-wide circle around the marksman and closed in on them. The two surrendered without resistance.
Following his arrest, Goodpasture "did come in the house and apologize to me. He just said 'I'm awfully sorry. I had no idea what was going on.' He should be sorry," said Lindsay.
Goodpasture, in a telephone interview yesterday, declined comment except to say that the whole incident was "unbelieveable. People around here are still in a state of shock." Hunn could not be reached for comment.
The Lindsays -- husband Francis, an employe of the Vitro Corp. of Silver Spring, was not home during the shooting -- said yesterday they hoped the incident might lead to tighter gun controls in the county.
There is no law against discharging firearms in the largely rural area of 10- and 15-acre lots like the Lindsays', the sheriff's department said. One deputy said the population density was too low to warrant such restrictions.
But Judith Lindsay disagreed. "There should be a gun ordinance. Loudoun County is growing, the homes are getting closer. It's really time for a stronger gun ordinance in the county so that this doesn't happen to anybody else."