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PA: Illegal gun blinded hunter

May 13, 2010

Illegal gun blinded hunter Shooter was barred from having firearm

MIFFLINBURG A Mifflinburg man who shot and blinded a high school assistant football coach while turkey hunting was barred from having a firearm because of a prior drug conviction, a Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman said Wednesday.

Leroy Allen Miller, 42, has been in jail since May 2 after Union County officials revoked his probation for illegally possessing a firearm when he shot Michael Hobbins, of New Berlin, in Limestone Township.

Tuesday evening, the Game Commission filed a felony firearms charge, as well as two game law violations against Miller. The firearms charge carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison, said Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. The charges come a week-and-a-half after Hobbins was seriously injured when Miller shot him in the chest and face with a 12-guage shotgun containing No. 4 shot. Feaser said that after firing his shotgun, Miller unloaded the weapon and walked over to the spot where he discovered Hobbins.

Feaser said the investigation was completed relatively quickly because, by happenstance, Game Commission officer Dirk Remensnyder was only a minute or two away from the scene when the shooting was reported.

In many cases, the Game Commission is not immediately notified, which slows the investigation. In this case, Rememsnyder arrived to find numerous witnesses who were still at the scene. Charges may have come more quickly, but investigators had to confirm that Miller was barred from having a firearm due to his prior conviction in New York State, Feaser said.

The Game Commission's investigation determined that Miller had set up in an area where he had seen turkeys. After hearing a noise and seeing a flash of color he mistook for a turkey, he fired, investigators said.

Hobbins' wife, Terry, has said her husband was reaching for an orange vest when he was shot.

Feaser said that in Pennsylvania there is no system in place that would allow the Game Commission to determine if a person seeking a hunting license was barred from possessing a firearm. For instance, a convicted felon may be able to hunt using a crossbow, if he or she has permission from the probation department.

In addition to the firearms violation, Miller was charged with shooting at or causing injury to another person, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of $2,500 fine and six months in jail. He was also cited for failing to properly display his hunting license, a summary violation that comes with a $25 fine.

Union County probation chief Scott Lizardi said Miller has been under the county's supervision since March 30, 2009, when he was sentenced to 60 months of intermediate punishment followed by a consecutive 12 months of probation on a driving under the influence of alcohol conviction.

Prior to that offense, Miller had been convicted in New York State of felony drug possession with the intent to deliver.

Lizardi was unable to provide many details, citing the ongoing investigation.

However, he said that as a convicted felon, Miller was well aware he was not allowed to possess a firearm. "Anyone can get their hands on an illegal firearm," Lizardi said.

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