UPDATE: Dec. 20, 1:11 p.m. - The York-Poquoson Sherriff's Office has identified the man shot and killed Friday night in York County.
David W. Ware, Jr., of the 100 block of Colonna Point in the Grafton area of York County was found dead with an unfired shotgun in the marsh reeds of a house on the 1900 block of Lakeside Drive, according to a statement from the sheriff's office posted online Saturday. He was 68.
The sheriff's office said Ware was shot and killed accidentally by Brandon Bartlett, a 21-year-old man who lived in the house on Lakeside Drive. Officials said Bartlett thought Ware was a deer.
Officials interviewed local residents who told them Ware was hunting a fox that had been killing chickens in a nearby neighborhood.
"Mr. Ware's death was completely avoidable," said York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. Diggs said in a statement posted online on Saturday. "(His death) underscores the need of anyone using a firearm to follow basic safety rules that include not shooting at anything you cannot see and identify."
Reached by phone on Saturday to explain the charge of second-degree murder, Diggs said “There’s different degrees of accidental.”
Diggs said if someone trips with a gun in their hand and it goes off, shooting someone, that’s clearly an accident with no malice whatsoever.
“In this case, while it was accidental, it was at least reckless, because the shooter never identified his target,” Diggs said. “When you have no idea whatsoever what your intended target is, you take the responsibility legally – you have now murdered someone.”
He said the Sheriff’s Office consulted with the York County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and decided that second-degree murder was the appropriate charge, noting that it includes any homicide that doesn't rise to the level of first-degree murder. The charge carries up to 40 years in prison.
“Had this not been a reckless act, there probably would not have been a second-degree murder charge, or any charge for that matter," Diggs said. How culpable Bartlett actually is is up to a judge or jury, he said.
- Ryan Murphy, Daily Press
ORIGINAL: Dec. 19, 11:23 p.m. - A 21-year-old York County man has been charged with second-degree murder after the sheriff's department said he accidentally shot another man.
Just before 5 p.m., York-Poquoson sheriff's deputies were called to a shooting at a home at 1900 Lakeside Drive, where they found a man dead near the home from an apparent gunshot wound, according to a news release.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Brandon Bartlett, 21, who lives at the home, the release stated. Officials said Bartlett shot the man accidentally, thinking it was a deer.
Officials are not releasing the victim's name until an autopsy is completed.
Law enforcement officials did not know whether the two knew each other. Capt. Troy Lyons declined to say what the victim was doing in the marshy area but said he wasn't doing anything illegal or malicious.
Bartlett is being held at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail without bond.