An upstate prosecutor said Monday he will pursue criminal charges against a man who accidentally shot a Malverne firefighter to death in November while the two, who were close friends, hunted deer.
Charles Bruce, 52, died from a single shot to the chest from a .44-caliber rifle at about 10:20 a.m. on Nov. 16. The shooting occurred in a wooded area of a privately owned property near Steve Braun Road in the town of Westford, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said at the time. Monday, Muehl said he will give the case to the grand jury in about two months.
Muehl said he will ask the grand jury to consider criminally negligent homicide and other assault-related charges. Criminally negligent homicide carries a maximum four-year sentence.
The suspected shooter, whose identity has not been released, told police he shot Bruce from a tree stand, Muehl said.
"He said he thought he was shooting at a deer, and he shot his friend," the district attorney said. "I have been hunting deer myself for 30 years and I've never seen a man that looked like a deer."
He added: "It's one of the first things that they teach you in your hunter-safety course is you never, ever shoot unless you know what you're shooting at. And obviously he didn't."
Muehl said the shooting "was obviously an accident."
Malverne fire department spokesman Dave Gildea said in November that the suspected shooter at one time worked alongside Bruce and that the two were close. They were among a group of four in a hunting party that included others in the department, Gildea said.
"We lost a friend, and the department lost a great firefighter," Gildea said Monday night.
The shooting occurred about 10 minutes after another member of the party shot a doe, Muehl said in November.
Bruce, of Franklin Square, was a divorced father of two and a 17-year department veteran.
The trip was not a department event, fire officials have said.
Reached at her home in Plantation, Fla., Monday, Bruce's mother, Yvonne Bruce, 72, said, "At the moment I can't think," when asked about Muehl's decision.
Muehl said Monday there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were factors in the shooting.