Man charged for killing woman with stray bullet

by: Lee Stoll Updated:


BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Police say a stray bullet that killed a girl during a family picnic came from a rifle rigged like a machine gun.

Allyssa Smith, 23, was at her parents’ Ferndale home last June for Father’s Day when relatives ran for cover under a hail of gunfire.

Detectives say 31-year-old Nicholas Zylstra and his friends were firing several guns, including an AK-47, in a field across the river.  Those friends say Zylstra put the rifle on his hip and fired in a “bump action” method in which the finger bounces off the trigger, making it tough to control.

 Allyssa Smith’s father asked the judge to keep Zylstra in jail.

 "We don't feel comfortable in our home anymore," said Jeffrey Smith.

 Officers say the rounds were powerful enough to hit a neighborhood where Annie Schwartz lives with her three children.

 "It's very scary. I don't want a stray bullet to hit my kids," said Schwartz.

 Peter Hopley, an experienced gun salesman, says the “bump action” stance basically turns the rifle into an automatic weapon.

 "It's on you to know where your bullets are going. Once you pull the trigger you can't call it back," he said.

 Zylstra, who has no criminal history, is charged with manslaughter because Allyssa Smith’s death was unintentional. 


Read the probable cause documents in the Nicholas Zylstra case here.

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