Oregon Hunter acquitted of killing man mistaken for bear


SALEM, Oregon  — An Oregon hunter has been found not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of a Marine reservist from California he says he mistook for a bear.

The Salem jury deliberated for about two hours Friday before acquitting Eugene Collier, The Statesman Journal newspaper reported.

Collier, 68, was the last witness to take the stand. He told jurors he was shooting to kill when he fired the .270-caliber bullet that caused the death of Christopher Ochoa, 20, of French Camp, California, in October 2011 near Silver Falls State Park.

Collier was hunting with his 12-year-old grandson and said he was sure he was shooting a bear

“I made a terrible mistake. It was a tragic accident, I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Collier said. “I’m terribly sorry.”

He and his wife met with members of Ochoa’s family privately after the trial ended. Neither family spoke with the media after the verdict.

Collier testified Friday he was about 100 yards (90 meters) from his target when he realized he had shot a human.

“I froze,” he recalled. “I thought the only person up there was my grandson. Then I realized he wasn’t dressed like that.”

His grandson heard the shot from his hunting stand and came running,

“Danny came, I said, ‘I shot somebody. We got to go get help,'” Collier said.

Prosecutor Tiffany Underwood asked Collier why he had taken Vicodin pain killer before his blood was tested by Marion County sheriff’s officials responding to the scene. Collier said he told a deputy about the prescription for a recent knee surgery and thought it would be OK to take when his knee started aching.

Underwood also asked Collier about his 60 years of hunting experience.

“How often do you hit your target?” she asked.

“I will usually make sure I’ve got a good kill shot,” he replied.

During her closing argument, Underwood suggested that Collier was aware of a risk and disregarded it.

“A reasonable person would look at something for longer than two or three seconds before firing at it,” she said. “If defendant had looked at Christopher Ochoa for longer than two or three seconds, we might not be here.”

But Collier’s attorney, Jeff Jones, told jurors the evidence pointed to a tragic accident.

“Sometimes bad things happen to good people when accidents happen,” he said.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Crazy_horse101010

    when i lived in the state of montana.bear season opened and a hunter was walking down a trail when it was dark. it is illegal to hunt at night. anyway he seen a rounded object in the trail and heard a moaning noise he thought  it was a bear and shot.. it was a couple in a dome tent and they were having sex he killed the woman and was charged with manslaughter. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1581415266 Mark Whatsitworthtou

    I would of found him guilty of manslaughter in a heartbeat. As hunters we are responsible for knowing what we are shooting at. 

    • Crazy_horse101010

      yes i went to school with a kid who killed his father sound shooting. during antelope season ive picked piles of bullets on the ground people are so excited they pump them out and forget to pull the trigger especially with a pump or lever action. my favorite was a dude who shot his own horse thinking it was a elk

  • mad_as_Hamlet

    I’m a poor marksman, but how I wish there was a crocodile-hunting season in the Philippines.  Also, as many politicians are shooting and hunting enthusiasts, I suggest that the season should be when Congress is in recess.

    • sam_aquino

       tell me when you go, mad… 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4TWHSFKAHXF2QUBBHJXCQWVHQ Phil

        me, too.  adding the thousands of ‘crocs’ already roaming the entire country, i think we’ll have a field day! 

      • sam_aquino

        i agree…  they are aplenty, you can hit them even with your eyes closed… : )

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        Will do, sam_A!

        But very seriously, supposing we do have a croc-hunting season and one day a hunter shoots and kills what he saw, thought, and believed was a crocodile crawling through some tall grasses beside a riverbank, but which turned out to be another hunter who happened to be a member of Congress, will the defense of honest mistake and lack of intent to kill, and due care and accident get the poor hunter off the hook, say, in a homicide or murder case filed against him by the next of kin of the member of Congress?
        I think our poor hunter will have a bad day in court, both in the hands of the prosecuting lawyer and the judge. I can just imagine the prosecuting attorney asking him the following questions:

        Q:  Mr. Accused-Hunter, like many of our citizens, millions of them, you are aware of course that politicians—-Congressmen in particular—-have, rightly or wrongly, been derisively called or referred to  as “crocodiles,” am I correct?

        A:   Yes, Sir.

        Q:   And you yourself have done your share of calling them as such, right?

        A:   Ahh, hmm, (the Judge stares him in the face at this point), hmm, yes Sir.

        Q:  And that’s because you consider them as corrupt and greedy, voracious and predatory like crocodiles, am I correct? 

        A:   Yes, Sir.

        Q:  For you, politicians, like members of Congress, are just the same as crocodiles?

        A:  But, Sir, I really did not . . .

        Q:   Yes or no?  Remember you are under oath.

        A:  Alright, yes, Sir.

        Q:  And at the time the deceased was killed, you were in the field hunting for crocodiles, right?

        A:   Yes, Sir.

        Q:   Your purpose was to shoot crocodiles, am I correct?

        A:  Yes, Sir

        Q:  And so at that time you wouldn’t have hesitated or thought twice of shooting a crocodile, would you?
        A:  Yes, Sir.

        Q: And when you did see one, you shot him, right?

        A. Yes, Sir.

        x          x         x

        I would say, Sam, that our poor hunter would not get a favorable judgment from the judge no matter how much he tries to prove that he really was careful and only mistook the victim for a crocodile.  And that’s where the beauty and justice of the jury system, like in the trial mentioned in the above news item, comes in.  If we had a jury system, I believe that in our hypothetical case so much would depend on who the “crocodile” really was.  I bet, for example, that had it been Rep. Mikey Arroyo or Rep. Tiangco or Sen. Enrile or Honasan or Sotto, the hunter would have had better chances of getting an acquittal.  I cannot say the same thing if it had been Rep. Tanada or Sen. Osmena.

      • sam_aquino

        if i shot & killed the croc senators/legislators, then i would be happy to be “guilty as charged”, mad, LOL!!!

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        LOL!  But I’m sure you’d be be happier to go scot free and shoot some more!  Me, too! Ha ha ha . . .

      • sam_aquino

        i’d be happiest if i can shoot all of them, nyahaha!!!

        cheers, bro!!! : )

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos