Another fatality: State charges hunter for mistaking man for deer

Sadly, the tragic lesson from Ferrum University was not learned by a Chatham-area man who allegedly shot and killed his neighbor after mistaking the innocent citizen for a deer.

On February 21, a Pittsylvania County grand jury charged 62-year-old Harry Hale Jr. with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 57-year-old neighbor Richie Pope, a man who made what some hunters and even state officials consider a mistake: going outside during hunting season without wearing orange clothing.

The incident, according to the Danville Register & Bee, occurred around 5:15pm on Thursday, December 29. Armed with a high-powered rifle that felled the victim from 77 yards away, the shooter, according to the report, was also charged with firing from a vehicle and reckless handling of a firearm.

In November 2009, a hunter named Jason D. Cloutier mistook a 23-year-old Ferrum College student for a deer and fatally shot the young woman. The sentence Cloutier received for killing Jessica K. "Jess" Goode, slain while collecting frogs for a science project, included making post-jail speeches about hunter safety.

At the time of Goode's death, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries called hers the first collateral death, although some consider the unsolved 1997 shooting of Albemarle citizen Janice Garrison to fall into that same category of an innocent victim of a reckless hunter.

The shooting of Richie, according to the Department, occurred as he walked along the 900-block of Riddle Road, which online maps show to be about a mile from Richie's home in the 1300-block. Riddle is a public road that connects to U.S. 29 about four miles north of Chatham.

Virginia law already has several hunter-friendly provisions including treating private property as anyone's hunting grounds unless otherwise posted; however, no fewer than eight bills were introduced into the General Assembly this year attempting to give hunters a seventh day, Sunday, to shoot animals. Those measures failed.

story updated 10:33am with location of incident

Read more on: deer hunting


*Darnit* this is why I'm very anti-hunting. Analogies to traffic risk don't hold b/c transit is necessary and hunting isn't. Good hunters are out there of course but there are so many idiots that shoot at mere movement or even sound. What ever happened to the rules 1. Know exactly what you're shooting at and 2. Know what is behind the target? What did this moron see in the gunsight when he fired? This wouldn't have happened at 77 yards with a bow and probably not with a shotgun. At the very least rifle hunting should be limited to hunting preserves where entrance is assumption of the risks.

So, I have to post on my mere .55 acre of land "no hunting, private property" or a hunter could shoot me or the deer that come into our subdivision? Really? Going to get posters today.

@The Cows are Far Away - there are so many hunters out there who are not "Good" all over VA and we don't have enough laws and Game Wardens out there to make a difference. The "Good 'Ol Boyz Club" of drinking the beer and going out at the crack of dawn to shoot them some deer is just a "right" in this area!

Hawes, could you provide info on where he was shot -- i.e., was he on his own property, on his neighbor's property, on public land etc. Thank you.

And this is local to this area how?

@red: I'll call DGIF to learn more, but news reports have said the victim was walking along a road near his home.
@?: Local because we have citizens here interested in state policy toward hunting, which-- as we're seeing in Chatham, at Ferrum, and right here in the Stony Point backyard of the late Janice Garrison-- can affect non-hunting citizens in the worst way.--hawes spencer

The blaze orange sweater is a nice touch.

To consider this man a hunter is wrong. When someone robs a bank do we call it banking? Bank robbers are criminals, they may be in a bank, and taking out money, but they are doing it illegally and therefore we call them criminals.
The same applies to this guy, criminal, not hunter. And remember, he was sitting in his truck with that rifle hanging out the window, not in a tree, not far from houses, and breaking the law without disregard.....criminal.
Every single post that has to do with hunting or animal management contains the same idiotic comments about there being no need to hunt, "good ol' boys" drinking beer at 6am, and tresspassers. I always ask, why don't you call the cops? Where are all these complaints being made? Typical response is, "there are not enough game wardens", well they are not the only people in the state that arrest criminals. Report violations and make a difference in your community by taking down licence plates and reporting illegal activity!
I meet upwards of 500 hunters a year, many are those "good ol boys" spoken of above. I would call the cops in a second if I saw an open beer or any other CRIMINAL activity degrading the good name of responsible hunters.
Call me crazy but things are not that bad in the woods of Virginia, I haven't had to call the cops in 15 years of participating each fall. But I have had to donate a few deer a year and request that every other hunter does also as our local food banks dry up each winter. I also have my deer processed and give to the many needy families I have met over the years. You may pay $5.99lb at Kroger to $16.99lb at Whole Foods for your meat. I eat organic meat year round and the public pays to be poisoned with hormone treatments and animals that are force fed corn.

My family lived in Albermarle county from 1973 to 1994 with over 300 acres in woods. My parents NEVER went into their own wooded property during hunting season. Not only will the deputy not come if you call him, but your field animals can be shot or your barn fired if you complain. Remember even Dep Seriff Higgen's dog was killed by the Klugie gamekeeper--no charges there. We had our woods posted and heard gunshots all the time--couldnt do anything. Are you going to argue with a group of possibly drunk men with rifles who are trespassing? When is the last time anyone in the county was arrested for illegaly trespassing and hunting? Dont know if the situation has changed any, right now I am only concerned about the people in Cville who prey on coeds. That too continues.

The victim was walking his dog.

@Logical Nice try but not quite logical. This man and the one who killed Janice Garrison (nice contextualization HS) were hunters. Leave the road hunting and proximity to residences aside, as these are not what caused the accident. The decision to fire without being sure of the target is what caused it. And ultimately it *is* an accident, albeit one that results in criminal charges and horrific consequences for the "deer." The woods are full of potential accidents like this during hunting season, caused by people whose intention is not criminal nor are their activities until they screw up. And across the state they do screw up with regularity, your anecdotal argument notwithstanding. If people pursued their banking activities by firing lethal projectiles into common space we'd want to take a hard look at that too.

I know you've heard the Hank Jr "country folks can survive" and taken it to heart. But really, when you factor in the shells, big game stamps,(you do have them right?) and time spent that could otherwise be time at work, it'd be hard to make an economic argument for meat hunting unless you go after those big black deer.

Cows: Assuming we are going to eat meat and that we take land cost out of the equation, the economics are very much in favor of hunting.

We have a perfect environment for deer and they are thriving, their numbers are so high in fact that they they are starving to death and becoming even more of a hazard to driving. How many people are killed each year by running into deer? I know it happened last weekend. I also know that Charlottesville it investigating ways to limit the deer population.

While the person was killed happened during hunting, it was done in a criminal manner. The criminal hunter was breaking multiple laws at the time. To me it is very analogous to drunk driving. We should at least add a qualifier to the "hunter".

"Virginia law already has several hunter-friendly provisions including treating private property as anyone's hunting grounds unless otherwise posted"

Absolutely false. Come on Hook at least try a little to get it right. Permission MUST be obtained to hunt ANY private property in Va.

"Logan, While the person was killed happened during hunting, it was done in a criminal manner. The criminal hunter was breaking multiple laws at the time. To me it is very analogous to drunk driving. We should at least add a qualifier to the "hunter"."

I very much agree.

My neighbor was shooting at groundhogs and hit my house right a above the rocking chair on the front porch. You know, where I sit. Fluvanna deputy investigated both sides of our property and the new neighbors from PA admitted. Deputy put them in the car and drove them to our house to MEET YOUR NEW NEIGHBORS! Deputy dug the bullet out of the siding (went through to the inside wall). His report was very flip like it was no big deal. U guess if I had been sitting in the chair it might have been a big deal. Neighbor came from a development to the country and figured Whee ha! I'm in shootin country now. Lemme fire this thing off! What he doesn't know is most hunters down here take their shooting seriously and only the rare moron shoots at just anything that moves.

@Those Cows: This was not an accident. It is illegal to shoot from a vehicle, and it is illegal to wrecklessly discharge a firearm. He was committing not one but at least two illegal acts. An accident would have occured if he was shooting at a deer, not from a vehicle, and the bullet hit something and veered off a "safe" course of travel and ended up hitting the pedestrian.
"Leave the road hunting (illegal) and proximity to residences aside (illegal:wreckless handling/discharge of a firearm), as these are not what caused the accident. The decision to fire without being sure of the target is what caused it (illegal:wreckless handling/discharge of a firearm)"

Hunting licences and bullets are cheap (less than $100.00), its the gas that costs the most. My total costs to hunt each year (Saturdays only) range from $400-$500. If you eat red meat once a week thats about $10.00 for the cheapest Food Lion junk or $520 a year. I provide 600+ meals for the homeless, give away about fifty pounds to needy families, and eat 100% organic prime rib, jerky, burgers, and sausage year round. Don't talk econ with me or sneakily try to call me a redneck by referencing Hank Williams. BTW, what is a big black deer?

I'm generally pro-hunting but I'd love to understand how you can mistake a person for a deer.

Do you think he was thinking "Oh there's my neighbor I'll shoot him now" or "something's moving over there, prolly a dear lemme shoot it" ? It's an accident by definition in the latter case, an unintended consequence QED (I'll sneakily insinuate that you went to an Ivy League school).

But it's important to look beyond this particular case. There are quite a few "A shucks man I'm sorry I killed you Junior, I thought you was a deer 'way you rustled 'em leaves" events going on. In the woods, sober, with licenses and a desire to kill something before going home. Now true there's a lot of reckless personal banking going on too, but no bullets involved. Honestly I don't know how you remedy this. There's nothing wrong with hunting per se but there are a lot idiots loose in the woods with firearms making bad decisions with bullets. However this keeps them from breeding for a few hours so two populations are kept in check this way. btw: You calling Hank Jr a redneck? I was referring to the American rural mythology in general. How many deer does 600+ meals + 50 lbs + your well-stocked larder represent? You hunting next to a salt lick? I still don't think it adds up but more power to you if it does.

Big black deer are called Angus by their owners.

Just to enter some more info into the fray....wasn't there a situation just in Albemarle county where a woman was shot due to target practice near her home? She and her husband were walking in their yard. Fortunately she was not fatally injured...but nothing was done about it either. So ? asking why it was local to this's in the same state, so I would consider it local.

Sorry hunters, you can't just exclude this man from your ranks by changing the definitions of words. He thought he was hunting for deer and took a shot. That makes him a hunter. Either that or he's a cold blooded murder who tried to cover his tracks by faking an accident, but there is nothing to suggest that in this article.

This is exactly the sort of thing that makes so many people who live in rural areas fearful of going outside on their own property for months on end. I've encountered men with guns on my own property and it's an intimidating thing to say the least. In reality there is nothing that can be done in most situations where that happens whether property is clearly posted or not. Mine was every 50 feet or so.

Anyone who angers hunters by calling in the law risks having pets or livestock killed or shots fired into their houses as a warning. I've had shotgun blasts sent in my direction from someone "playing around" with me and even though I was far enough away that it wasn't likely to hurt me, it just isn't fun at all to have lead shot from a gun raining all around. That was meant as a warning to me, and I can assure you I got the message.

I'm not anti-hunting at all, but given what I've experienced including having a friend shot on another piece of posted private property, I don't want it anywhere near me.

dan1101 - Because it's Friday and I am feeling's my analysis...

Guy in the pickup : ooooo! Looky, something moving in the woods! Must be a deer! My buddies are gonna think I am top dog for bagging this one! Oh, no time to get out and check this out, besides I might scare em' away, just shoot from my truck....nobody is gonna know....

And you know the rest of the story.

Now I am all for hunting..just with all things taken into consideration, including the laws.

@those cows...the big black deer are easier to shoot and tasty too!

The fact is you don't need any more qualifications that the ability to pony up $23 in loose change to be licensed to hunt in Virginia. To get a drivers license you have to take a test and if you're new, you need to take a driving test. Then, if you're actually going to be behind the wheel of a vehicle, it needs to be insured and registered and pass a safety inspection. Perhaps a similar system could be put in place for hunters...i.e.: show the ability to differentiate a deer from a human being or a "big black deer". If we are going to allow folks to walk the woods carrying loaded weapons, there should be an arm of law enforcement responsible for keeping things as safe as possible. Drinking and hunting should carry strong penalties (jail time), just as drinking and driving does. Perhaps hunters should be required to carry a large insurance policy as drivers must. As someone stated earlier, you can't cure stupid, but I think you can help even the odds for the rest of us.

It might become a defense to any shooting .. "I thought he was a deer" (after a big boundary line dispute etc. with a neighbor.

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Poachers are not hunters, they are poachers. Law abiding citizens that hunt should be no more associated with this mess than a thief that steals crops and claims he was farming. Tresspassers are tresspassers and so on. As soon as he decided to break the law he went from hunter to criminal. It's not the words that change, it's the definition of the illegal act that changes the activity in it's entirety. This guy made a bad decsion, and sounds like he's gonna pay the price for it, sad all around.

@CAT & @saywha? : I feel very bad that so many landowners are being held hostage in their homes, threatened, having animals slaughtered, and being coersed into not contacting the authorities by unknown thugs with guns invading their properties for three months a year.

Post your property, talk to your neighbors, and call the police when threatened or trespassers are present. Just try it, works for me and my family, and no retribution to speak of, burned barns, dead horses, slashed tires etc.

@ThoseCows - I harvest about 6 deer a year on average or 250-350lbs of meat. 1lb of meat feeds at least 4 people at your local shelter. I also ask other hunters, farmers, hunt clubs, and landowners to call me if they are interested in donating a deer to Hunters for the Hungry but are just too lazy to drop it off themselves or are unfamliar with the process. I pick them up and pay all the processing fees as a charitable donation. I normally get another 4 to 6 deer this way. So with a little bit of effort I guess I help provide more like 1000+ meals a year.

@Logical1 Well Right On!! I imagine that you also not only identify the target but also check the shot path before letting bullets go. You're wearing the white hat; thanks for doing what you do. I'd love to say you're the rule not the exception. And with guns it doesn't take too many exceptions.

omgitspaul , Did you bother to check any facts? You have to take a hunter safety course to get a hunting license. The arm of law enforcement responsible for hunting, fishing, boating are the DGIF Conservation policemen (game wardens). There are stiff penalties for drinking and hunting. People rarely spend jail time for a first DUI.

The rules I learned as a youngster hunting:

Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
Never have a gun pointed at anything you do not wish to shoot.
Positively identify your target and what is beyond it.

There is no defense for the actions in this case, however he is not every hunter anymore than a robber is every citizen.

@ life res....I freely admit to some ignorance as far as all the rules of hunting go, I don't hunt. I will say that I see a lot more police cruisers on the road than I see DGIF vehicles. Enforcement should take place during, not after the fact. Just saying...

You gotta love Virginia. Elmer Fudd hunters and a "prober" governor. The real land of Looney Tunes. So much for Virginia gentlemen.

An acquaintance of mine does in fact consider himself a fine southern gentleman. I often describe him to others as such while being present. He totally misses the sarcasm. God forbid I should be considered such. But being an atheist I have much better chances.

Dudeee this was my eighth grade teacher when I was in school, no lie. He has like cancer and retired just a year ago. I would had never thought he would Kill someone accidentally or what not.

This man was my 8th grade English teacher and by far one of the best teachers I have ever had. He was always nice and thoughtful no matter what the cause. Yeah, he had his problems (he's a cancer survivor) but that wouldn't make him go to as such lengths as to shoot another man. I used to write stories, poems and draw pictures.. all of which he'd hang on his wall. He was and IS a good man.

I agree with Samantha. This man was a great teacher, and even though I didn't have him, I rarely ever heard negative things about him and he was always joking around and being a friend to the students. He is a great person and is not a "killer". I truly believe that this was an accident as stated because if anyone actually knew him, then they would also know that he would never intentionally hurt anyone.

Easy boys and one is saying (I don't think) that he shot his neighbor intentionally. Just that he was careless to have pulled the trigger without being absolutely sure of what he was shooting at. I sure the man he put to rest was a well-thought-of dude as well.

Good point. Not many condolances for the victim here. If you are old enough to own a gun you are old enough to watch where you are firing it and you are old enough not to fire it from a moving vehicle.