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“Intentional discharge of an aimed firearm” leads to rare criminal charges in Colorado death of hunter

COLORADO SUN.COM – December 12, 2020 – Harry Watkins and Simon Howell had hunted together for several years in densely timbered, steep terrain outside Kremmling.

Watkins, a 52-year-old from Pennsylvania, and Howell, a 26-year-old from West Virginia, were avid, experienced outdoorsmen. The annual Colorado elk hunt was a highlight of their season.

On Nov. 9, one of the hunters in their small party shot an elk. Howell and Watkins were among the hunters tracking the wounded, bleeding animal.

What happened next is unclear. Howell was shot and killed. Watkins has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in his friend’s death.

Public records requests sent from The Colorado Sun to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the 14th District Attorney’s Office were denied. So official details about the very rare hunting-related homicide charge are not available.

“The rules of hunting safety exist to keep this exact kind of tragedy from happening,” reads a written statement from 14th District Attorney Matt Karzen, who filed the single felony charge against Watkins on Nov. 19. “Complacency and lack of discipline is all it takes for someone to be killed.

Watkins’ attorney, David Jones, said the charge means his client acted unreasonably given the circumstances.

“We don’t feel he acted unreasonably,” said Jones, who described Watkins and Howell as friends and annual hunting buddies. “This was a truly unfortunate series of events. Based on everything he had in front of him, it was reasonable to fire.”

Jones, who is still waiting for investigation information from Karzen’s office, provided Watkins’ perspective of the day.

The hunting party — which Jones said was “three or four” hunters — had radios and was working together to track the wounded elk. Watkins saw the animal through thick trees, Jones said.

“He saw the antlers. He saw the brown. He saw the animal was down in the woods,” Jones said. “The problem was that his buddy had taken off his orange and was kneeling next to the downed animal. (Watkins) saw that the animal was about to get up and he fired. That’s what caused his buddy’s death.”  [full article]

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