Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2005

Alcoholic hunter gets jail time

June 25, 2005
Judge warns man about hunting, drinking
Niles man gets jail, probation in wounding of teen

Tribune Staff Writer

CASSOPOLIS -- A Niles man apparently is having difficulty understanding that alcohol and firearms don't mix.

On Friday in Cass County Circuit Court, Judge Michael Dodge sentenced Dennis Samples to two years' probation and 180 days in the county jail, with credit for 11 days served, following Samples' guilty plea to careless use of a firearm resulting in serious injury.

Dodge said the charge stemmed from a May 18 incident in which the 49-year-old Samples fired a shotgun on his Redfield Road property. Although the judge said Samples, who registered a blood alcohol level of 0.07 percent, believed he was shooting at a turkey, the blast struck 17-year-old Cameron Cooper, of Niles, causing serious injuries.

One of several people who had received permission from Samples to hunt on the property, Cooper has incurred more than $8,000 in medical bills, Dodge said.

"You're lucky you're not here on a 15-year felony (charge) for manslaughter,'' the judge told Samples.

Dodge pointed out also that the shooting occurred only two weeks after Samples was placed on probation for possessing a weapon while under the influence of liquor. In that incident, Samples accidentally shot himself in the buttocks, Assistant Cass Prosecutor Jason Ronning said. Dodge called Samples "a functioning alcoholic,'' because he has managed to consume alcohol while holding a steady job. Samples apologized for the shooting but Dodge chastised him for devoting his weekends to "boozing and shooting weapons.''

He ordered Samples to cover Cooper's medical expenses and to pay $570 in fines, fees and court costs. In addition, he was ordered to make payments of $40 a month to offset his probation costs.


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