Sunday, March 9, 2014
WALES -- In the fading visibility of twilight Tuesday afternoon, two hunters aimed their rifles at a deer in the woods.
Approximate location of fatal shooting off East Road.
Both men, who lived within a few minutes' drive of each other and were hunting separately, pulled the trigger.
One hunter, Christopher Austin, fired twice. His second shot blasted through the woods and hit an unexpected target: the other hunter, Gerard Parent.
Those details emerged Wednesday as the Maine Warden Service continued to investigate the fatal shooting off East Road. Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said investigators are still trying to figure out what went wrong, including whether Parent and Austin fired their first shots simultaneously.
Austin's bullet hit Parent in the throat, according to emergency dispatch reports.
MacDonald said it's too early to determine whether the shooting -- the first hunting fatal this year -- was an accident, or whether criminal charges will be filed.
"We're not even close to that," MacDonald said Wednesday night. "With hunting incidents, it probably will be weeks before any of that is determined."
He wouldn't specify whether the men were hunting from the ground or a tree stand, and he said investigators were trying to confirm whether both men were wearing two articles of blaze orange as required by law.
Parent, 49, lived on nearby East Road, and Austin, 41, lives on nearby Andrews Road.
Both men used rifles, were hunting separately, and were pursuing the same deer, according to a warden service news release Wednesday. MacDonald said he didn't know if the deer was hit by either hunter and wouldn't say whether a deer's body was found at the scene. He also wouldn't say what caliber of rifle either man used.
Game wardens were called at 4:19 p.m. Tuesday -- 13 minutes before the state-required end of hunting for the day. The shooting took place in a wooded area between East Road and Route 126.
MacDonald said investigators have found no evidence to suggest darkness was a factor in the shooting.
Both men live nearby and were familiar with the area, though the shooting happened closer to Parent's property off East Road, MacDonald said. He wasn't sure who owns the land where the shooting took place.
Parent lived at 392 East Road, at the southern end of the road near the intersection with Route 126. The land slopes steeply down from the road and the wooded area where he was shot is in a small valley.
"It wasn't a big piece of woods," MacDonald said. "It was a fairly small sliver of woods between 126 and the East Road."
Investigators were still in the woods at the scene late Wednesday afternoon. Yellow caution tape was strung along the road, which is lined with houses.
A tree within 100 yards of Parent's house, another house and the road, was wrapped in orange tape.
MacDonald doesn't know who called in the shooting, though he said witnesses were being interviewed. The initial emergency dispatch report to Monmouth Rescue, which responded to the call, said that a hunter had been shot in the jugular and that lifesaving efforts were under way. MacDonald wouldn't comment on those details.
"Anything related to the victim's wounds can't be released before the medical examiner's report," he said.
The state medical examiner was set to do a post-mortem exam Wednesday, but office personnel didn't return a message seeking comment.
Nearly two dozen game wardens and 10 state troopers responded to the shooting. Resources included warden service dogs, forensic mappers, aircraft, and the evidence response teams from both the warden service and Maine State Police. The investigation continued throughout Tuesday night and resumed Wednesday morning. Investigation efforts were supported by both Monmouth and Wales Fire and Rescue departments.
The Maine Warden Service said it will continue its investigation in cooperation with the attorney general's office and the medical examiner.
Craig Crosby -- 621-5642