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FL: Two men charged in Fort White hunting accident

November 8, 2009

Two men, one from Lecanto, charged in Fort White hunting accident

Two men, one from Lecanto, are facing several charges in connection with a hunting accident at Fort White in early October.

That news came on Friday from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office took the initial report Oct. 12, when the accident occurred and one of the men was shot in the arm. The investigation was then turned over to FWC officials, who found inconsistencies with the men's stories. Both men were re-interviewed.

Gary Stine, 32, of from Lecanto, was shot in the left forearm. His initial statement indicated he was bowhunting while Joseph Alan Barnes, 18, of Erwin, N.C., was holding a rifle. Barnes allegedly dropped the rifle and it fired, striking Stine in the arm.

"One of our concerns was why did they have a firearm during archery season," said FWC investigator Michael Pridgen. "We discovered that both men were hunting with rifles."

The FWC investigators also determined that the gunshot was self-inflicted by Stine. Barnes recanted his initial story and told investigators he heard the gunshot, followed by Stine's yell for help. Barnes then left his stand and went to the aid of Stine.

"The sheriff's office seized Stine's .243-caliber rifle as evidence. "When I inspected the weapon, I found the safety mechanism was completely unreliable," Pridgen said. "The rifle could be made to fire when the safety was on, either by pulling the trigger or hitting the stock."

Stine was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, hunting deer with a modern gun during archery season and hunting without a proper license or permit.

Barnes, who was hunting deer with a 12-gauge shotgun, was charged with hunting without a proper license or permit and attempting to take deer with a modern gun during archery season.

"With the cooperation of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, we were able to close the accident investigation," Pridgen said.

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