Hunter Mistook Friend for Deer, Fatally Shot Him, Prosecutor Says

The victim was a veteran volunteer firefighter in Malverne, N.Y.

A hunter shot and killed his friend after mistaking him for a deer in the woods while on a hunting trip upstate, authorities said Tuesday. Prosecutors were considering whether to bring charges against the shooter. 

The victim, Charles Bruce, 52, was a veteran volunteer firefighter for the Malverne fire department on Long Island. He was killed on a weekend hunting trip with other firefighters in Westford, N.Y.

Bruce was heading out of the woods late Saturday afternoon when another hunter in a tree stand about 60 yards away fired a shot that struck Bruce in the chest, said John Muehl, Otsego County district attorney. 

The shooter has not been identified. A Malverne fire department spokesman described him as a former volunteer who was one of Bruce's best friends.

"It's a difficult thing to kill your best friend," Muehl said. "But there is no excuse for shooting someone. I've been hunting all my life, and never once have I seen a man that looked like a deer."

The district attorney now plans to review the case and will consider convening a grand jury that could bring criminal charges against the hunter.

"I know he is heartbroken," Muehl said. "But he violated the first rule of hunting. You don't aim your gun at something unless you have positively identified it as a target."

Black and purple bunting hung on the outside of the Malverne fire house Tuesday as colleagues mourned Bruce, a firefighter for 17 years. 

He was described by department spokesman Dave Gildea as "very active guy" who loved hunting, running and smoking cigars.

The father of two grown children, Bruce was also an electrician and had worked in many of the homes of his fellow firefighters.

"It's just a terrible tragedy," Gildea said. 

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