Oregon Man Shoots At “Bear” and Kills Marine on a Hike

We have previously discussed “buck fever” cases and the relative absence of civil or criminal penalties for fatal hunting accidents historically. This week saw another tragic case after Marine reservist Christopher A. Ochoa, 20, was shot while hiking with a friend. Gene Collier, 67, says that he though Ochoa was a bear while hunting with his grandson.

The 12-year-old grandson was with his grandfather at the time of the shooting. Collier, who had not been drinking, said that he was confused by Ochoa’s wearing dark clothing. Ochoa was due back for duty on Oct. 25.

Prosecutors indicated that they viewed the death as an accident and no charges have been filed in the case.

Yet, it would seem that Collier did not wait to have a clear view of the “bear” before shooting. That would seem a clear case of negligence. Yet, juries in hunting areas tend to excuse such accidents, particularly by younger hunters. For a prior column, click here. This may change as urban areas continue to encrouch upon traditional hunting areas and fewer people engage in the sport. Ultimately, however, the issue for a jury comes down to a “reasonable hunter” standard. This can create a sharp contrast on a regional level. In the 1980s, Karen Ann Wood, 37, was outside in her backyard shot in her own backyard when she was shot by Donald Rogerson, a deer hunter. Wood, the mother of twin baby girls died minutes later. However, a Bangor jury refused to indict the local hunter for manslaughter and many defended him saying that Wood created the danger by going out in her backyard wearing a brown jacket and white mittens. The Wood family had just moved to the area from Davenport, Iowa.

I discussed these buck fever cases in class as part of our discussion of the differences in the perception of reasonableness. The hunting cases are also relevant on the question of adult activities. Children engaged in adult activities are held to an adult standard. However, despite the need for a permit, some states do not treat hunting as an adult activity. Indeed, there has been a race to the bottom of the age scale in some states in lowering the age for hunters and companies are marketing “kiddie shotguns.”

Source; Statesman as first seen on Reddit.

27 thoughts on “Oregon Man Shoots At “Bear” and Kills Marine on a Hike

  1. While it may be a difficult thing to determine the intent, it is a certainty that removing the privilege to use a gun by someone that is not so discerning would prevent that person from performing the same “accident”.

  2. I clearly remember my maternal grandfather … a literal frontiers man having been born in a sodhouse immediately after the The Great Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893 (he would never say if his family were Sooners or Boomers) … coming home early one day from a hunting trip and telling my grandmother that his hunting days were over. “There are too many careless people with guns out there who don’t know what in the hell they are doing. A man could get killed.”

    He joined his son-in-law’s (my father’s) family and friends and took up the bow and arrow. Having a good eye and a steady hand he became proficient at the bow and his immense experience in tracking was a real asset to the Clan.

    We only hunted in areas where guns were not permitted.

    There is no excuse for Collier’s “mistake” as any real hunter, whether he be firearm or bow, knows. He killed a 20 year old man due to careless hunting skills and should be required to face that fact in a court of law.

  3. There is a difference between a mistake and an accident, and this was no accident. He intentionally aimed what he knew to be a loaded gun and intentionally pulled the trigger intending to hit that at which he shot. That is the only intent required, not that he thought he was shooting something other than a human being. Civilly, it should be gross negligence per se with punitives being available. Criminally, at least involuntary manslaughter.

    That the DA decided not prosecute is one thing, to say the decision is based on the accidental nature of the incident is the coward’s way to justify inaction.

    The industry agrees. See http://www.remington.com/~/link.aspx?_id=5B6EB408A13E4DE5960FD674D7459CAC&_z=z

    4th Commandment of Hunter Safety:

    “You can’t stop a shot in mid-air, so do not fire unless you know exactly where your shot is going and what it will strike. Never fire at a sound, a movement or a patch of color. A hunter in camouflage can easily be mistaken for a target by an impulsive shooter. Before you pull the trigger be absolutely sure of your target and what’s behind it. Make sure your shot has a backstop such as a hillside or dense material like sand. ”

    This is industry advice — this is the standard of care for an idiot hunter let alone a reasonable hunter.

    Dammit, firing a bullet is rocket science and requires the utmost care!

    [From someone who has twice been shot at by hunters — once while wearing blaze oragne! — and that time it was a fusillade!]

  4. I can’t see how in the case of the woman in her backyard the hunter wasn’t responsible. She was IN HER BACKYARD. Why would anybody even be allowed to shoot at someone’s yard?

  5. Jude,

    The hunter was unfamiliar w/ the area and believed he was well away from any homes. That said, he was shooting at a significant range and not fully certain of his target. Since that case the state has passed a law that criminalizes any weapon discharge within 150 yds of any dwelling while hunting.

    Living in Maine I can attest that it is very difficult to judge distance over heavily wooded terrain, I’ve walked into back yards while hiking, never seeing any sign of habitation until I stepped within a few yards of the property.

  6. AY,
    The victim was not hunting so wearing orange was not an issue. I have to agree with Blouise that this guy should be held responsible for the shooting. How does a man walking look like a Bear? If you are actually taking the proper time to verify what you are looking at, it is an easy decision. Finally, was this shooter give a blood test for drinking? Part of the problem with these hunting seasons is that many of the hunters are drinking more than they are hunting.

  7. Rafflaw: “Finally, was this shooter give a blood test for drinking?”

    I knew a lot of hunters and they thought they were responsible because they didn’t drink while hunting. They would go hunting with hangovers though because they spent the entire evening drinking. How many people get shot I wonder because the hunter is so hungover from the night before that he’s impaired?

  8. raff,

    Not to get in a dispute with you…the Main article is regarding a person in the woods….while the story makes reference to a woman…..not in the main case….He was out in the woods on a hike….I can see a major difference…..

  9. Identifying your target before pulling the trigger is a basic tenet of firearm safety…Collier needs to go to jail for manslaughter.

  10. AY,
    Why should a hiker have to wear orange? I am also confused why the Statesman story sats the Grandson was a distance away and was not a witness. Why would the grandson not be right with his grandfather?

  11. raff,

    This is out of the tag line from the story…..”A Marine reservist visiting the Salem area from California was shot and killed Friday evening by a man who was hunting with his grandson, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

    Detective Matt Wilkinson reported that the victim, Christopher A. Ochoa, 20, of French Camp, Calif., was hiking through a field with a friend, Raymond Westrom, 53, of Lathrop, Calif., heading to Silver Falls State Park when he was killed.

    Gene Collier, 67, of Turner, and his 12-year old grandson were hunting for bear on the property. Collier told Wilkinson that he saw what he thought was a bear moving in the brush. He fired one shot from his .270-caliber hunting rifle. The shot struck Ochoa.”

    Correct me if I am wrong…they were not in the State Park….they were in a field…I think that this would be easily winnable,if charges are filled…I do not even hunt ….Now if they find that they knew each other and there was malice aforethought…they we have a different situation….Here there are so many if’s in this one…But Murder and/or Manslaughter has to be beyond a reasonable doubt….

    They do not even have enough for Negligent Homicide which is a lesser included offense to first and second degree murder states all define negligent homicide by statute. In most States the offense is the killing of another WHILE driving (Hunting) under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    p.s…..I would have gotten back to you earlier but I had no internet service….and was busy doing some other things…

  12. Only a minority are into the “art” of hunting, anymore. Most just locate the gun that’s been lying in some closet for a year, load up the pickup and go “a-hunting,” leading to cases every year of killing humans instead of game animals. It happens every year.

    If the DA is not going to prosecute, hopefully the family of this unfortunate man will sue in civil court.

  13. I used to work with hunters. The sensible ones said if you are sure it’s a deer, it’s a deer. If you ‘think’ it’s a deer, it isn’t.

  14. Go after Donald R. for shooting at a bear at all. He was hunting deer, not bear.
    Throw him in jail for being an IDIOT for shooting at a supposed bear without a clear shot and without knowing if the supposed bear has companions.
    What was allowed under the hunting laws?
    I bet the penalty is greater for shooting a non-threatening bear out-of-season than any penalty he receives for manslaughter.

  15. Why is everyone questioning why he shot at a bear? I didn’t see anything in the article that said he was Deer hunting, bear hunting is perfectly legal in most states. Also the article states that he was NOT drinking, don’t people read?

    THAT being said, I’ve been shooting guns and hunting since I was about 5 or 6, starting with the old .22 rifle. I have NEVER understood why someone would take a shot at a movement in the woods.

    Beyond the tenent of KNOWING what you’re shooting at, there is also a tenent in hunting that says you never take a shot unless you have a clean kill shot lined up…this is so you don’t cause unnecessary suffering to the hunted animal. Those two things should keep any even-less-than-competent hunter from shooting another person.

    Yes, Ochoa should have been wearing Blaze orange, being in a hunting area during hunting season…but this is certainly not an instance where you can blame the victim.

    Said story and a sad fact that individuals such as Collier make the rest of us hunters look like blood hungry morons.

    And about Cheney… Listen, I hate the guy as much as anyone with any sense of right and wrong, but the hunting accident was not something he should have gone to jail for unless he was drinking (which some said he was)…

  16. Gene Collier was poaching. I heard someone that told about his lifetime of poaching. He was caught and charged a few times.

  17. Blouise There is no excuse for Collier’s “mistake” as any real hunter, whether he be firearm or bow, knows. He killed a 20 year old man due to careless hunting skills and should be required to face that fact in a court of law.

    Exactly…never point at anything your not willing to kill, and ALWAYS know what your target is…

    I would at least HOPE that these people get their hunting license revoked for life.
    Like Blouise said No excuse for that…

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