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LUCKY, Lucky Deer Hunter, Motorist

Bridgeton News, NJ

By JAIME MARINE. DEERFIELD TWP.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

DEERFIELD TWP. -- While out deer hunting early Tuesday morning near Lebanon Road, Mayor John Stanzione fired his muzzleloader at a deer and missed the head of Rosenhayn resident Frank Manno by 2 inches as he was driving to work.

The bullet smashed through the windshield of Manno's car and lodged in the headrest, inches from his head.

Doug Ely, conservation officer for the Department of Fish and Game, said no one was injured and that the incident was an accident.

"Mr. Stanzione believed he was firing in a different direction," he said.

"Maybe he should have used better judgment in a developed area, but he was very forthcoming with information and he was sorry for what happened."

Stanzione is expected to be charged with careless discharge of a firearm and damage to property of another while hunting, both civil penalties.

"He may have to pay a fine and he will also lose his hunting privileges for two years," he said. "Also, he will be required to take a safety course before he gets his license back."

The incident took place at 7:10 a.m., Ely said, when Stanzione and a group of hunters were conducting a deer drive, meaning they were trying to drive deer out of hiding.

"Mr. Stanzione had a deer come across the field toward him, he fired and missed the deer," he said. "His projectile went from where he shot to the vehicle of Mr. Manno, who was traveling eastbound Lebanon Road."

The projectile went through the windshield of Manno's car on the passenger side, Ely said, moved diagonally to the drivers side and lodged in the headrest.

"After the incident, we conducted an investigation and we found that the bullet missed Mr. Manno by no more than two inches," he said.

Stanzione said he couldn't give the specifics of the incident, but he said, "This was a freak accident, it was nothing intentional or negligent and I cannot comment any further."

Stanzione said he talked with Manno Wednesday and told him how sorry he felt.

"I can't imagine what I would feel like right now if I had hit him,'' said Stanzione.

It would have changed the lives of both men forever.

"I am so thankful no one was hurt,'' said Stanzione.

Officers were able to recreate the incident with little trouble, Ely said, and they feel they have a clear picture of what happened.

"We were able to find where the shooter was standing during the incident and we also recovered pieces of his projectile," he said.

"When we traced the line it went from the shooter to the victim's vehicle and after that everything fell into place, it was obvious what had happened."

Stanzione waited before he attempted to fire at the deer, but Ely said he believes that no matter how careful Stanzione was being, there was no safe spot to shoot in that field.

"Mr. Stanzione had been hunting in that area for many years," he said.

"While there might have been safe shooting lanes in the past, those are now gone due to the development the area has seen."

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