Luckily, so far (knock on wood), this hunting season has been pretty uneventful as far as accidents are concerned. I have had exactly one (knock on wood some more) accident to investigate. But this one simple property damage did leave me with a little dilema. "To charge or not to charge.."
In this accident two separate homes were shot with two different shotgun slugs. Five people had been hunting a section on the outskirts of a small town, which consists mostly of large, expensive new homes--urban sprawl to the two cities situated on either side.
Usually in these types of accidents I never find out who the shooter was. The home owners arrive home after the fact to discover holes in their houses. But this time one of the home owners was home at the time the house took the slug (luckily the person was in the room next to the one that was shot). So, as soon as the houses were shot, the hunters were gathered up by the sheriff's department and were waiting for me at a house down the road from those that were shot.
I pulled up to talk to the hunters. They had already determined who the shooter was- a man in his fifties. The first thing he said to me was, "I didn't see any houses. We were a quarter mile away! How was I supposed to know?" His story was that he was shooting at a deer that was running up a hill (in the direction of the housing development).
We went to the spot where he was when he took five shots at the running deer. The empty casings lay on the ground 450 yards from the first of the victim's homes. BUT, the rooftops of the houses WERE visible from the shooting location. When I pointed this out to the shooter he said, "Yeah, I guess so."
Next I went to the houses that were hit. The first house took a slug through the siding, through the shower wall and landed in the middle of the bathroom floor. Thankfully, the elderly woman who was home at the time happened to be in the neighboring room (though she told me that she had been in the bathroom a lot that day working on cleaning it).
So, the dillema...to charge or not to charge. In this state you have to discharge a firearm outside of 200 yards if you do not have permission to be closer, so the hunter was legal in that sense. The only option I had was "Reckless discharge of a firearm."
So, you tell me, is it reckless to discharge a firearm at a deer that is running up a hill when you are 450 yards from a home?
I will tell you in my next post what the county attorney told me.