Murder Charge Reduced in York County Accidental Shooting Case

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Brandon Bartlett (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Brandon Bartlett (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A 21-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a man he says he mistook for a deer is heading to a grand jury with a lesser charge.

York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney Benjamin Hahn agreed to waive Brandon Bartlett’s preliminary hearing Tuesday and reduced the felony second-degree murder charge to involuntary manslaughter after months of investigating the incident.

“We found after looking under every stone that that was proper way to go,” Hahn said Tuesday morning before the hearing.

Involuntary manslaughter is defined by the Virginia State code as the killing of a human being through recklessness or negligence but without malice or intent.

Authorities found Bartlett and his girlfriend giving CPR to 68-year-old David Ware Jr. in a marsh behind Bartlett’s residence Dec. 19 after Bartlett shot him in the chest.

Ware later died from the gunshot wound.

An investigation revealed Ware had been out hunting a fox that had been killing chickens on his property, authorities said.

Bartlett was originally charged with second-degree murder after telling investigators with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office he shot into the marsh with a shotgun because he thought he saw two deer fighting.

The 2011 Grafton High School graduate posted a $25,000 bond 10 days after the incident, and all the guns were removed from his house on Lakeside Drive — where Ware was shot — before his return home from Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.

A grand jury will now decide whether there is enough evidence to move Bartlett’s case forward to Circuit Court for trial.

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