February 24, 2013 in Region

Hunter cleared in fatal shooting

Associated Press
 

SALEM – An Oregon hunter has been found not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of a Marine reservist from California he said he mistook for a bear.

The Salem jury deliberated for about two hours Friday before acquitting Eugene Collier, the Statesman Journal reported.

Collier, 68, was the last witness to take the stand. He told jurors he was shooting to kill when he fired the .270-caliber bullet that caused the death of Christopher Ochoa, 20, of French Camp, Calif., in October 2011 near Silver Falls State Park.

Collier was hunting with his 12-year-old grandson and said he was sure he was shooting a bear.

“I made a terrible mistake. It was a tragic accident, I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Collier said. “I’m terribly sorry.”

He and his wife met with members of Ochoa’s family privately after the trial ended. Neither family spoke with the media after the verdict.

Collier testified Friday he was about 100 yards from his target when he realized he had shot a human.

“I froze,” he recalled. “I thought the only person up there was my grandson. Then I realized he wasn’t dressed like that.”

His grandson heard the shot from his hunting stand and came running,

“Danny came, I said, ‘I shot somebody. We got to go get help,’ ” Collier said.

During her closing argument, Prosecutor Tiffany Underwood suggested that Collier was aware of a risk and disregarded it.

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