An Oregon hunter has been acquitted of killing a man that he mistook for a bear.
The jury in Salem deliberated for just two hours on Friday before acquitting hunter Eugene Collier, who had shot a Marine reservist back in October 2011. The 68-year-old Collier took the stand, telling jurors that he thought he had a bear in his sights when he fired a.270-caliber bullet toward 20-year-old Christopher Ochoa.
“I froze,” he recalled. “I thought the only person up there was my grandson. Then I realized he wasn’t dressed like that.”
After the Oregon hunter was acquitted, he met with members of Ochoa’s family privately. Though neither family spoke to the media, Collier showed remorse on the stand.
“I made a terrible mistake. It was a tragic accident, I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Collier told jurors. “I’m terribly sorry.”
The prosecutor had charged the Oregon hunter with manslaughter, and asked him why he took Vicodin before his blood was tested by a sheriff’s deputy. Collier said that he had a recent knee surgery and thought a deputy told him it would be OK to take the painkiller.
Prosecutors had tried to argue that Collier was aware of the risk he took in firing the shot but disregarded it, the Statesman Journal reported. On the stand, Collier told jurors he was careful of his shot.
“I look and there’s something on its hands and knees. It looks like a bear,” he said. “I adjust to the target, then shoot it. I’m still certain it’s a bear.”
The Oregon hunter acquitted of manslaughter said he owns part of the field where the shooting took place.