Soldier charged in hunting accident
By William F. West
Friday, January 19, 2018
An off-duty soldier who was hunting in Pasquotank County last month is facing criminal charges after a woman riding in a pickup truck was injured by a stray bullet allegedly fired from his high-powered rifle.
Clement Gray, 21, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is charged with negligent hunting, reckless use of a firearm and violating centerfire hunting rifle regulations, Pasquotank District Court records show.
Gray, who is stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is free on a $5,000 unsecured bond after turning himself in on Jan. 13.
Pasquotank District Court records show Gray is accused of wounding Melissa Elizabeth Hurdle on Dec. 22 as she, her husband Andrew, and their infant child were driving on West Main Street Extended.
According to Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright, a hunter -- since identified as Gray -- was hunting near West Main Street Extended the evening of Dec. 22 when the incident occurred. Gray apparently had exited a tree stand and was walking along a path when a deer ran out in front of him, Cartwright said. Gray raised his high-powered rifle and fired at the deer but missed.
The round fired from Gray’s rifle apparently traveled in the direction of West Main Street Extended, where Andrew Hurdle was driving a 2004 Ford F- 150 pickup truck, Cartwright said. Hurdle’s wife, Melinda, was riding in the backseat of truck’s cab with the couple’s infant child.
Cartwright said the Hurdles’ pickup was near West Main Street Extended’s intersection with Berea Church Road when the stray bullet entered the truck’s cab.
“They heard a popping sound — and then his wife slumped over,” Cartwright said, referring to Melinda Hurdle. “And he (Andrew Hurdle) found that she had been hit in the back.”
Cartwright said Andrew Hurdle reported the incident and then stopped his truck after he was met by deputies. Cartwright said Melinda Hurdle, 29, was conscious when deputies arrived. She initially was transported to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center before being taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia, where she was treated and released.
Cartwright said his department’s investigators immediately began asking other hunters who had been hunting in the area at the time of the incident. That investigation apparently led deputies to Gray.
A Pasquotank magistrate’s warrant states Gray is accused of carelessly discharging a firearm in “wanton disregard for the safety of others” and in a manner that endangered Melinda Hurdle. According to the warrant, Hurdle suffered a partial permanent disability as a result of the incident. A sheriff’s incident report lists Hurdle’s address as Fort Meade, Maryland.
The warrant also states Gray used a centerfire rifle in Pasquotank without caution and in a manner to endanger persons and property. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website states that in Pasquotank, hunters can use a centerfire rifle, but must do so from a platform at least eight feet above the ground.
A check of Pasquotank District Court records didn’t immediately show whether Gray has retained an attorney. His first appearance in court on the charges is scheduled for Feb. 19.