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Safe Hunting?

Dangerous Hunters and Negligent Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers

Charges against two hunters accused of shooting a man in the face were dropped last week when the Division of Fish and Wildlife conservation arresting officer failed to show up at municipal court to testify.

Last November, Stanley Ogonowski was pheasant-hunting when stray pellets from a shotgun hit him in the face and neck. The hunters, accused of negligence and careless use of firearms, left the scene.

Ogonowski, 52, scraped himself from the hunting field and drove to the hospital, where he was treated for serious wounds.

"When you have the shooters and the victim, there's usually a prosecution," said Ogonowski, who suffered pellet wounds to his jaw bone and near his windpipe and an artery in his neck.

In this case, Michael Massey, the key investigator, was nowhere to be found. The judge dismissed defendants David Hand and Ryan Belk.

Still unreachable, Massey's superiors said his absence was due to negligence.

"He did receive notice in August," said Rob Winkel, chief of law enforcement for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. "He neglected to record it in his schedule and missed the court date. We're rather disappointed by the outcome."

Ogonowski's lawyer, Peter Allegra, of Red Bank, said he will file a civil lawsuit against the defendants. He said he was unsure how Massey would factor into that suit.

"I have not heard from anybody where Massey was or why he did not show up in court," Allegra said. "It's very unusual."

There are no criminal charges against the defendants, but Ogonowski said he thought their actions were more than careless.

"When they shot me, they knew they shot me," Ogonowski said. "They didn't give me any kind of assistance."

Source: The Press of Atlantic City 10/8/03

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