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Off-duty trooper mistakes woman for deer in Norton

January 2, 2012

By Marc Larocque, EnterpriseNews.com

A Massachusetts state trooper shot a 66-year-old woman in Norton on New Year’s Eve, mistaking her dogs for deer in an “apparent hunting accident,” according to police.

Norton police Lt. Todd Jackson said no violations have been found and no charges will be filed against John Bergeron, 50.

Bergeron, a Norton resident and a Massachusetts state trooper, was using a black powder rifle to hunt deer when he shot the woman at 4:55 p.m. in the area of 98 Oak St. on Saturday.

The woman, 66-year-old Cheryl Blair of Norton, is recovering at Rhode Island Hospital, Norton police said. Police said her injuries are not life threatening.

Jackson said in a statement that an investigation by Norton police, state police assigned to the Bristol County district attorney’s office and environmental police has “revealed the shooting to be accidental.”

The shooting took place after sunset and just before black powder rifle deer hunting season ended on Saturday.

Blair was walking her two dogs on a path when she was shot once in the abdomen.

Norton police said Bergeron mistook the dogs for deer.

Jackson said police found in their investigation that Bergeron observed a deer earlier in the day in the general area of where he shot Blair.

“He then observed what he believed to be a deer tail and fired one round,”
the statement said. “The victim ... was on a path walking her two dogs in the same area and was struck by the round. Investigators believe that Bergeron observed the dogs and believed them to be deer.”

Norton police said Bergeron immediately dialed 911 and called police and fire assistance for Blair.

Jackson said the area where Blair was shot was about one-quarter mile into the wooded area off Oak Street and at “a safe distance from any buildings.”

Blair was transported to Rhode Island Hospital by the Norton Fire Department. It took about a half-hour to get the woman out of the woods, Jackson said.

Blair was shot by Bergeron about 15 minutes before hunting season was supposed to end, and Jackson said the incident took place about 17 minutes after sunset. The shooting was reported at 4:55 p.m., while according to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, the season for deer hunting with black powder rifles expired at 5:08 p.m. on Saturday.

State police spokesman David Procopio said Bergeron had a valid hunting license, and would not face any disciplinary action at work as a result of the off-duty incident.

Blair’s injury would not be the first mishap to come along with hunting in southeastern Massachusetts this season. Several other recent incidents in the region have brought unwanted attention to hunters.

On the morning of Nov. 28, when shotgun season was just hours old, a shotgun round hit a Berkley woman’s house, breaking the window of a room in which a 95-year-old woman was sleeping.

A day later, a hunter in Dighton was shot through the leg after a bullet his friend shot went through a deer, then ricocheted off a rock and hit him in the ankle.

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