Eugene Irvin Collier, 68, of Turner, waits to hear the verdict on day four of his trial in the courtroom of Judge Lindsay Patridge at the Marion County Courthouse. Collier is charged with second degree manslaughter for allegedly fatally shooting a man he thought was game on private property near Silver Falls State Park on Oct. 21, 2011. / Danielle Peterson/(Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal
Eugene Collier admits he was shooting to kill when he fired the .270-caliber bullet that caused Christopher Ochoa's death on Oct 21, 2011.
But he thought he was shooting at a bear.
He was certain, he told a jury Friday, that the dark figure "on all fours" at the edge of his family's property where he was hunting that evening was a bear.
That jury agreed with him, acquitting him of a charge of second-degree manslaughter. The jury returned its verdict after about two hours of deliberations.
The 12-person jury decided that Collier was not reckless in the shooting death of the 20-year-old Ochoa, a marine reservist from California who had traveled to Oregon to help his friend, Raymond Westrom. The two of them set out to see the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park the night Ochoa was shot.
Instructed to remain quiet by deputies from the Marion County Sheriff's Office, a filled courtroom was silent after the jury foreman deemed Collier not guilty of manslaughter and a hunting violation.
While Collier's reaction could not be seen from the gallery, he did not display any notable outbreak of emotions.
Neither family agreed to provide comment, but Collier and his wife met with members of Ochoa's family behind closed doors after the trial ended.
Earlier in the day, however, Collier was the last witness to take the stand and the court once again heard about the events surrounding Ochoa's death.
Collier and his then 12-year-old grandson had been baiting for deer and were looking for coyotes on the field, which he partially owns, where the shooting occured.
"I made a terrible mistake. It was a tragic accident, I didn't mean for it to happen," Collier said. "I'm terribly sorry."
Collier was asked to recount in great detail the events surrounding Ochoa's death by both his own attorney, Jeff Jones, and the prosecuting attorney, Tiffany Underwood.
"I look and there's something on its hands and knees. It looks like a bear," he said. "I adjust to the target, then shoot it. I'm still certain it's a bear."
Copyright 2014Statesman Journal (Salem, Ore.)
Read the original story: Oregon hunter acquitted of shooting death