Letcher County man asks jury trial in killing of

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Jul. 22, 2004

Letcher County man asks jury trial in killing of bear

By Roger Alford

ASSOCIATED PRESS

An Eastern Kentucky man charged with illegally killing a bear in his back yard has refused to plead guilty in order to avoid the possibility of jail time, choosing instead to have his case heard by a jury.

Terry Brock, 36, of Mayking, said the bear was a renegade and that he killed it to protect his family.

The Letcher County man faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted. He said the county prosecutor offered a plea bargain that would have required no jail time, but Brock would have had to pay a $250 penalty, give up his hunting privileges and give up the heirloom 30-30 caliber rifle he used to shoot the bear.

"I didn't want to do that," Brock said. "I don't feel like I did anything wrong."

District Judge Jim Wood set Brock's trial for Sept. 20.

Brock, who has three children, said he walked out his door on June 2 to find out what was disturbing his dogs and horse and came face to face with the bear.

He said he jumped back inside, asked his wife to call the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife for help and began banging on the wall of his mobile home, hoping to scare the animal away.

When that didn't work, Brock grabbed an heirloom rifle and fired, he said.

"It seems like he had a right to protect his family, his dogs, his horse, from this bear," said defense attorney Jamie Hatton. "It's not like he was poaching."

Letcher County Attorney Harold Bolling couldn't be reached to comment yesterday. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, which filed the charge against Brock, doesn't want the case dropped.

"This is our first case," Frank Campbell, a conservation officer for Letcher County, told WYMT-TV in Hazard. "I feel it's a very important case for us."

In a region where complaints about bears are on the increase, a trial could test how residents perceive the shooting of black bears that wander into residential areas.

One other such case is pending in Knox County, where a man is accused of killing a bear in his garden because it continued toward him after he fired a warning shot.

Black bears thrived in the area more than 100 years ago, before logging and hunting led to their disappearance. Over the past 20 years, they have been venturing back from forests in Virginia and West Virginia.

Now, for the first time in more than a century, Kentucky has a self-sustaining black bear population, and residents of the mountainous region along the state's eastern border are having to learn to live alongside them.

Mark Marraccini, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said last week that conflicts between bears and people would decrease if people stopped leaving food and household garbage where bears can get it.

Brock said he couldn't believe he was accused of a crime. He said the bear swatted at his dogs and had his horse so spooked that he feared it might break a leg trying to get out of its stall.

"I don't think people should be shooting these bears under most circumstances," said Hatton, the defense attorney. "Under this circumstance only, should you be allowed to shoot a bear."
 

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