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Questions raised but no charges filed in North Carolina shooting

We hear occasionally about accidental shootings that take the life of innocent people. Sometimes the owner of the firearm is charged with a violent crime; other times, the incident is labeled accidental and nothing more comes of it. But that doesn't mean life goes back to normal for either the shooter or the victim's family.

In December of last year three women were shot outside a house in Chadbourne, North Carolina. The women were on the sidewalk, about to get into a car for a shopping trip when a single bullet hit all three women. One of the women died almost instantly; the other two survived after being rushed to a hospital.

The man who shot the rifle told police it had accidentally gone off while he was removing it from its case. The gun, a Remington 700 rifle, has a reputation for accidental firings; several complaints have been filed with the company and there are 75 lawsuits currently pending over the guns. Police accepted the man's account and released him without charges. His gun was taken to a state Bureau of Investigation lab and is headed to the FBI for further investigation.

Although the man hasn't been charged, suspicion surrounds the case. The family of the woman who died isn't buying the man's story and has arranged a protest to take place May 19. Not helping the man's case is the fact that he has a Confederate flag and Nazi literature in his home; all three of the women who were shot are black. Should these facts convict the man? While they certainly don't earn him any character points, they can't be considered hard evidence that the shooting was intentional.

In many ways this is a classic criminal defense case even without any further action from police or the courts. A protest could lead to outrage in the community over the shooting and condemn the man without his ever being charged, which could be as damaging as an actual conviction. Like many people  suspected of but not charged with a crime, this man may be well-served by hiring an attorney now to mitigate any further damage to his reputation and be prepared in case charges are filed against him as the investigation proceeds.

Source: WECT, "Forbes article raises questions about area shooting; family plans protest," May 1, 2012

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