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Tragic Accident on the Platte River: Unlicensed Hunter Fatally Shot


On January 20, Gaige Zook and Jackson Harbor embarked on a duck hunt on the Platte River near Torrington, Wyoming. Accompanying them was Maurizio Justiniano, an unlicensed hunter eager to learn about waterfowling. Tragically, Justiniano lost his life that day due to an accidental gunshot wound.

The Incident

The Goshen County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a gunshot wound at approximately 2:58 p.m. Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Lamb arrived at the scene, located near the North Platte River. EMS personnel were already attending to the victim, a 19-year-old male hunter.

Zook, 20, recounted the events to Deputy Lamb. According to the affidavit, Zook was seated between the other two hunters in the man-made driftwood blind. Harbor noticed a duck among their decoys and encouraged Zook to take the shot since he hadn’t bagged any ducks that day. Zook attempted to shoot but his gun misfired. He then placed his malfunctioning gun behind him and borrowed Harbor’s 20-gauge shotgun. After missing the shot, Zook returned the borrowed gun and tried to diagnose his own firearm’s issue, suspecting the firing pin was freezing.

During this process, Zook’s gun accidentally discharged, striking Justiniano in the abdomen. In his final moments, Justiniano asked Zook to hug him, and Zook complied, applying pressure to the wound. Despite efforts by EMS, Justiniano succumbed to his injuries.

The Legal Proceedings

On April 28, a warrant for Zook’s arrest was issued by the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial District in Goshen County. The initial hearing took place on May 14. The charge against Zook is involuntary manslaughter, stemming from the accidental but reckless shooting that led to Justiniano’s death.

Judge Hibben addressed the severity of the charges during the hearing. Despite acknowledging Zook’s clean criminal record and status as a student at the University of Wyoming, the judge emphasized the seriousness of the incident. A bond was set at 10% of $25,000, with the expectation that it be posted by May 21.

The case escalated to felony level in the Goshen County District Court on June 3. If convicted, Zook faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

This tragic incident underscores the critical importance of firearm safety and the need for proper handling, especially in the presence of inexperienced hunters. The loss of Maurizio Justiniano serves as a somber reminder of the potential consequences of momentary lapses in safety protocols. As the legal process unfolds, the hunting community is left to reflect on the paramount importance of safety measures to prevent such heartbreaking accidents in the future.

What do you think of this case? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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Louisiana Hunters Arrested for Fraud in State-Run Contests

Hunters going through rural field

Louisiana wildlife officials have arrested six men accused of committing fraud in two state-run hunting contests by submitting wild hogs caught in Texas. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) law enforcement agents have taken action against these individuals for their alleged misconduct.

The individuals arrested include Trace Davis of Longville, Hunter Webb, Davy Haymon, and Don Pollard Jr., all of Pitkin, Coby Bushnell of Dry Creek, and Nathan Granger of Vinton. They face severe charges reflecting the serious nature of their alleged actions. All six men are charged with hunting contest fraud and criminal conspiracy. Additionally, Davis, Webb, Bushnell, Haymon, and Pollard Jr. face an additional charge of violating interstate commerce, while Davis is also charged with obstruction of justice. Webb faces a separate charge for hunting under a suspended license.

The LDWF investigation revealed that the suspects captured wild hogs in Texas and then submitted these hogs for two Louisiana hunting contests. The contests in question, the Dingler Wild Hog Roundup in Bienville Parish (Feb. 9-10) and the Swamp Time Hog Hunt in Caldwell Parish (March 14-16), both had rules stating that the hogs must be caught within Louisiana during the event dates.

Nathan Granger, who did not participate in the Caldwell hunting contest, turned himself in at the Bienville Parish Jail on June 4. The other hunters surrendered themselves at the Bienville Parish and Caldwell Parish jails on June 7.

The charges carry significant penalties. Hunting contest fraud and criminal conspiracy can result in up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Violating interstate commerce could lead to a $950 fine and 120 days in jail. Obstruction of justice carries a potential fine of up to $10,000 and five years in jail. Hunting under a suspended license could result in up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The investigation by LDWF officials is ongoing, with the potential for further developments. This case highlights the importance of adhering to hunting regulations and the consequences of fraudulent activities in state-run contests. As wildlife officials continue their efforts to maintain the integrity of hunting competitions, hunters and participants are reminded of the critical importance of following all rules and regulations to ensure fair and lawful practices.

What are your thoughts about the fraud down in Louisiana? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 


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