According to the Citizen-Times of Asheville, North Carolina, authorities are unsure of what actions to take in regards to a hunting accident last weekend. The fatal shooting accident took place in Pisgah National Forest at 1 PM on Sunday when a 21-year-old hunter mistook a hiker for a deer and shot 50-year-old Luciano Martinez Martinez.
Martinez was collecting plants in the national forest, which is open to both hunters and nature enthusiasts for much of the fall and winter. The shooter and his hunting group called 911 and acted responsibly after the accident happened. The hunting group all had up-to-date licenses. Martinez was not wearing hunter’s orange, which is recommended by wildlife rangers for safety. He was dead when emergency responders reached the scene.
Transylvania County Sheriff David Mahoney told reporters that his department had met with the U.S. Forest Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, and a NC District Attorney met to discuss the case in the days after the incident. Although certainly the incident was an accident, there are a wide range of possible charges that the DA, Jeff Hunt, could decide upon.
“Legally, there’s a wildlife negligent hunting charge when (a shooting) results in injury or death, and then there’s the other charges such as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter,” Mahoney said. “There’s also the possibility the DA might not file any criminal charges. Right now it’s in his hand to review.”
The decision on the charges, if any, could come as late as February, when the NC state grand jury meets again.
There were eight fatal hunting accidents last season in North Carolina and 28 serious hunting injures, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission. Many of those accidents involve falls from tree stands or self-inflicted gunshots. There are 400,000 licensed hunters in the state.
Ranger Odell Sanders said that although an accident of this sort is very uncommon, hikers should wear orange and hunters should be very sure of what they are shooting before they pull the trigger.
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