February 15, 2012

Hunter indicted on manslaughter charge in shooting of another hunter

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND -- A deer hunter from Windham faces a manslaughter charge for fatally shooting another hunter in Sebago last November.

William Briggs, 61, was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury last week. Briggs shot Peter Kolofsky, 46, in woods near his home off Hoghill Fat Road on the late afternoon of Nov. 5.

Briggs was hunting with his brother. The two had separated when Briggs saw what he believed to be antlers moving in an area of brush and trees with leaves, according to his lawyer, Peter DeTroy. Briggs fired a shot and nothing happened, DeTroy said Tuesday.

"He saw the antlers moving again, and that's when he shot the fatal shot," DeTroy said.

When he realized he'd shot Kolofsky, Briggs yelled for his brother, who came running. They tried to call 911 but got no service, according to DeTroy. They then ran to the road and called for help there, he said.

DeTroy said there were antlers by Kolofsky's body. He was wearing blaze orange, as required by state law. A married father of two, Kolofsky was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hunters commonly use antlers for "rattling" in order to attract deer to an area. Rattling mimics the sound of clashing antlers during the rut, when deer breed and bucks spar to win mates.

"The dominant deer if it hears clashing of antlers in (its) territory, it's going to come running -- 'Who's in my territory?'" said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service. "Even smaller bucks will come into the area and see what's going on."

Maine law requires hunters to identify their targets before firing. The law describes the unobstructed view of the head and torso as the most critical part of evaluating a potential target. The law also requires hunters to realize that other factors, including distance, terrain and lighting, come into play in target identification.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said that manslaughter must involve either criminal negligence or reckless behavior. She would not discuss the facts of the case but said Briggs has been cooperative. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.

Friends described Kolofsky as a logger, carpenter and commercial fisherman with a strong work ethic and a generous spirit.

"Our position is this was a terrible, terrible accident -- a terrible tragedy. Mr. Briggs has been absolutely distraught about it, has been from day one," DeTroy said.

He described Briggs as a longtime hunter who has cooperated with investigators, and who tested negative for alcohol and drugs after the shooting. State law requires that a person responsible for a hunting fatality must provide a blood sample for drug and alcohol testing.

Briggs has not been arrested on the charge. DeTroy said he will plead not guilty at his arraignment. A date has not yet been set.

There are 200,000 licensed hunters in the state. The hunting season last year began Oct. 29 and firearm season ran through Nov. 26. The previous hunting fatality in the state was in 2008 in PIscautaquis County, when a New Gloucester man accidentally shot himself.

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