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VT: 11-year-old shot by 15-year-old

December 8, 2009

SPRINGFIELD An 11-year-old Springfield boy was wounded last week when his 15-year-old friend accidentally shot him as the two were hunting squirrels, Springfield police said Monday.

The two boys, who were not named, were hunting off Greeley Road on property owned by one of the boys' families, according to Lt. Paul Gaudreau, a game warden with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Steve Majeski, another game warden whose district includes Springfield, is investigating the incident, which happened on the afternoon of Nov. 29, which was the closing day of Vermont's rifle season for deer.

The 15-year-old boy, Majeski said, tripped over a log and fired his .22 rifle. The bullet struck his friend in the chest and then hit his arm. The boy suffered non-life threatening injuries, police said.

The injured boy was taken to Springfield Hospital where he was treated and released, according to Springfield Police Lt. Mark Fountain.

Fountain said the safety was off on the rifle's trigger, and the boy apparently had his finger on the trigger while walking through the woods, which hunters are not supposed to do.

Fountain and Gaudreau both said the two boys were legally hunting squirrels even though it was deer season. One boy had a license, while the other was on his family's property, Gaudreau said.

Gaudreau said the incident didn't fit Fish and Wildlife's legal definition of an accident, which occurs when circumstances are beyond a person's control. Gaudreau instead called it an accidental discharge of a firearm, since the boy whose gun went off didn't intend to shoot the younger boy, but he wasn't following best hunting practices in the woods.

Gaudreau said that the older boy was carrying a .22 "rimfire" rifle not a high-velocity weapon.

"The finger is not supposed to be on the trigger," said Gaudreau, who said a true hunting accident involved circumstances "beyond their control."

Majeski said his investigation so far had revealed nothing to support any criminal charges against the 15-year-old, but the case will be forwarded to the Windsor County state's attorney's office eventually for review.

Gaudreau also said that the age of the shooter would probably be a contributing factor in the decision on whether to file charges.

"Right now the investigation primarily indicates an accident," said Fountain, adding that firearms safety rules require that a finger is not supposed to be on the trigger until "you are ready to shoot your weapon."

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