BATAVIA, Ohio — The man accused of shooting and injuring an off-duty Cincinnati police officer and the officer's son pleaded not guilty Tuesday.
Wesley Seitz, 23, is charged with two counts of assault after the Ohio State Highway Patrol said he shot the man and the teen at the East Fork Wildlife Area in Williamsburg Township Monday, the first day of turkey hunting season.
Court records show that Seitz has been accused of crimes related to hunting before. According to a civil lawsuit, he "was responsible for poaching at least 12 deer in 2012 in violation of the hunting laws of the state of Ohio."
A neighbor tipped off the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the possible poaching. Seitz admitted that he later committed arson, setting the neighbor's truck on fire and vandalizing his property, according to the court records.
A reporter reached out to Clermont County Juvenile Court about the case and was told there were not records for Seitz. The county cannot turn over court records if they've been sealed or if the record was expunged.
Magistrate Anita Bechmann issued an order of protection for the officer and his son during a court hearing Tuesday. Bechman also ordered Seitz to give up any weapons and turn them over the the highway patrol.
The officer and his son have both been released from the hospital.
Seitz is currently on probation for a hit-skip, prosecutors said. He's being held in the Clermont County Jail with bond set at $75,000.
How hunters can stay safe
According to the 911 call, the off-duty officer had just arrived and was about to set up a decoy when he and his son were shot. An incident report from the highway patrol states that Seitz's friend heard him shout "tom" — the term for a male turkey — before shooting and hurting the two other hunters.
Marty Weiss, the hunting lead at Cabela's in West Chester, didn't speak to this specific case, but said hunting turkeys is dangerous work.
"The challenge is, you have to be stealthy," he said. "You are dressed in complete camo, which creates a safety concern as well. You have to get into the woods as quietly as possible."
Unlike deer or pheasant hunters, turkey hunters don't wear blaze orange. That means one of the biggest dangers during turkey season is the difficulty in noticing other hunters or being noticed by them.
"Make sure you identify your target before you shoot," Weiss said. "And that goes with any hunter safety course. You have to be aware of your surroundings and sure of your target and what's past your target, because if you miss, that projectile is going to carry."