'Reckless' teen hunter to face manslaughter charge

OSO A teenage hunter who fatally shot an Oso woman on a popular hiking trail Aug. 2 was called "reckless" by Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich Aug. 12.

The 14-year-old boy from Concrete, Wash., will be charged in juvenile court with first-degree manslaughter for allegedly killing 54-year-old hiker Pamela Almli.

Almli was shot in the head when she bent over to put a jacket into a backpack. The boy was with his 16-year-old brother when he fired a .270-caliber rifle from approximately 120 yards away.

Weyrich said the boy failed to follow guidelines in the state's hunting safety manual, especially being sure of a target and what lies beyond it. The teenager, who took a hunting class when he was 9 years old, apparently mistook Almli for a bear.

Weyrich explained that the foggy weather conditions that obscured the hunter's view, and the fact that Almli was dressed in a light-colored blue coat when she was shot on a hiking trail, factoring into the decision to charge the boy.

Weyrich noted that the killing doesn't appear to have been intentional, which could have resulted in a murder charge. Instead, he said that the teenager's actions appeared reckless, which provides legal grounds for a first-degree manslaughter charge. Weyrich added that the shooting's location, on a busy hiking trail on Sauk Mountain, was also a key factor in the charging decision.

Weyrich deemed juvenile court the most appropriate venue for the case, based on the boy's age and other factors. He plans to file the charge Aug. 15. If convicted, the teenager could face nine months in juvenile detention.

State Fish and Wildlife officials said that a hiker hasn't been killed by a hunter in Washington in 25 years or more. According to Skagit County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Mike Cenci, Fish and Wildlife officials plan to study hunting accidents involving juveniles and share what they learn with the Legislature, to help write laws to try to make hunting safer for hunters and hikers alike.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, is already proposing a graduated hunting license, which would require a teen to hunt with an adult until the age of 16 or 18.

Weyrich reported that, after the shooting, the boy was very upset and emotional. Weyrich did not know if the boy has offered an apology to Almli's family.

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