Hunter, 14, to be charged in killing

OSO — A teenage hunter acted recklessly when he fatally shot an Oso woman on a popular hiking trail Aug. 2, the Skagit County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich said he intends to file a first-degree manslaughter charge in juvenile court against the 14-year-old boy who allegedly killed Pamela Almli, 54.

Weyrich said the teen failed to follow guidelines in the state’s hunting safety manual, especially being sure of a target and what lies beyond. The boy apparently mistook Almli for a bear.

Also factoring into the decision were the foggy weather conditions that obscured the hunter’s view and that Almli was dressed in a light-colored blue coat when she was shot on a hiking trail, Weyrich said.

“One particular action doesn’t necessarily equate to recklessness,” the prosecutor said. “But when you put everything together, that may be reckless.”

Weyrich said it appears the killing wasn’t intentional, which could have resulted in a murder charge. Instead, he said, the boy’s actions appeared reckless, which provides legal grounds for a first-degree manslaughter charge.

Based on the boy’s age and the other factors, it was most appropriate to handle the case in juvenile court, he said. He plans to file the charge Friday.

State Fish and Wildlife officials said a hiker hasn’t been killed by a hunter in Washington in 25 years or more.

Almli was shot in the head as she bent over to put a jacket into a backpack. The Concrete boy was with his 16-year-old brother when he fired a .270-caliber rifle from about 120 yards away.

The shooting’s location, on a busy hiking trail on Sauk Mountain, was a key factor in the charging decision, Weyrich said.

“If they had been wandering around out in the woods, it would be very different,” Weyrich said. “You have to consider it was on a very popular and well-used hiking trail that was marked as such.”

After the shooting, the boy was very upset and emotional, Weyrich said. The prosecutor said he did not know if the boy has offered an apology to Almli’s family.

The teen took a hunting class when he was 9 years old and was properly licensed. If convicted, he could face nine months in juvenile detention.

The prosecutor contacted Almli’s family before announcing his intention to file the charge, he said.

Almli was remembered for her love for the outdoors. She could name every peak in the Cascades, her family said.

The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office referred the case to the prosecutors’ office after an investigation, Skagit County sheriff’s Chief Will Reichardt said.

State Fish and Wildlife officials said they plan to study hunting accidents involving juveniles, Deputy Chief Mike Cenci said.

They’ll share what they learn with the Legislature to help write laws to try to make hunting safer, he said.

State hunting officials have said they’d like a law passed that would require juvenile hunters to be accompanied by an adult.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com

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