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Montana shooting victim's family files civil suit

Family members of a Montana youth killed during a hunting accident have filed a wrongful death suit against the boy's hunting partners, according to recently released reports. The deceased, from Malta, Montana, was killed in a field northwest of the town on Oct. 23, 2010. He was 16 years old when he died, according to officials.

The boy had been hunting with his two friends and classmates. During the afternoon, the County Sheriff's Office had received a 9-1-1 report that the boy had shot himself during an accident in the field. According to authorities, the boy's hunting partners said they had dropped him off in a field by himself, and they were not with him when the fatal shooting occurred.

Later, however, the youths' stories came under fire, primarily because the victim had been shot in the back of the neck. The angle of the gunshot wound showed that the injury could not have been self-inflicted, according to authorities. That revelation caused the boys to admit that they had lied to police. In actuality, one of the guns had discharged when the boy carrying it fell, striking the victim.

A 15-month investigation has cleared the boys of any criminal liability in the suit, with the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigations declaring the death an accident. The boys may still face charges of felony obstruction of justice because they lied to officers, but they have not yet been indicted for that wrongdoing.

The family members say that the boys had presented widely different stories about the events surrounding the shooting. The victim's parents are not entirely certain how their son died, but they are convinced that the youngsters manipulated the crime scene after their son was killed. The boys also lied about what happened, they say.

The boy's family is seeking compensation for reasonable earnings during the victim's life expectancy, as well as medical, funeral and burial expenses. Damages sought also include compensation for the mental anguish that resulted from the loss of their son, including their own grief.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, "Malta family files lawsuit over son's shooting death," David Murray, May 25, 2012

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