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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2006

Maplewood man charged in boy’s hunting death

Jim Adams, Star Tribune
November 22, 2006

 The 45-year-old defendant said he mistook the brown hair of the 14-year-old victim for the back of a deer.

After spending all of Saturday morning deer hunting with his 14-year-old son, Troy Lanie told the boy he’d go fishing or duck hunting with him that afternoon near their new Aitkin County cabin.

But Brandon Lanie wanted to do more deer hunting and left with a neighbor and friends. His father told the group that he’d have pot roast ready when they got back.

Brandon didn’t return, and his father went looking for him, said Nicole Lanie, his stepmother. At their hunting area, Troy Lanie found Aitkin County deputies who told him that Brandon had been shot in the head by their cabin neighbor just north of Lake Mille Lacs. The neighbor, Steven J. Ferguson, was charged Tuesday with second-degree felony manslaughter in Aitkin County District Court.

The charging papers said Ferguson, 45, of Maplewood, called police about 5 p.m. Saturday after discovering that he had shot Brandon after mistaking him for a deer. Ferguson said he fired twice after hearing leaves crunch and seeing something brown move through the thickets some distance from his tree stand. He said Brandon had brown hair that looked like a deer’s back.

In court Tuesday, prosecutor Lisa R. Rakotz said Ferguson admitted to police that he had been drinking alcohol Saturday, which was confirmed by a witness. She said that Ferguson has had several drunken-driving convictions—state records show about five since 1993 -- and that his driver’s license was conditional upon not drinking.

Judge John Leitner also ordered Ferguson not to contact Brandon’s family and not to drink alcohol, hunt, possess guns or leave Minnesota.

Ferguson’s attorney, Ryan Garry, said after the hearing that Ferguson, who posted bail, sent his “deepest regards and sympathy to the family” of the victim. “It was a horrific, tragic accident,” Garry said.

Troy Lanie of Buffalo taught his son safe hunting skills and is still too distraught to talk about Brandon, Nicole Lanie said. She said Brandon was “an awesome kid” who loved hunting, fishing, his family, and their dogs and cat.

He earned good grades as a ninth-grader at Buffalo High School, where he played golf and liked his industrial arts class. He made a maple table for his mother, Debra Hulett, with whom he lived about half the time, Nicole Lanie said. Hulett could not be reached to comment.

Brandon was thrilled when he went hunting recently with his dad and 12-year-old brother, Tyler, because Tyler shot his first deer.

“It didn’t matter that he didn’t shoot one. He was so proud of his brother. He ... came home grinning ear to ear,” his stepmom said.

Deputies said Brandon was wearing blaze orange pants and coat and a green and brown camouflage, baseball-style cap.

“People are supposed to identify what they are shooting at. Once you pull the trigger, you can’t take it back,” Nicole Lanie said.

Basic rules are that a hunter must identify his target and know what it is and what’s beyond it, said Ross Opsahl, a regional training officer for the state Department of Natural Resources.

He said hunters must wear blaze orange from the waist up, except for their sleeves and hands. They don’t need to wear a hat, but if they do it must be blaze orange, he said.

Jim Adams 612-673-7658 jadams@startribune.com

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