DESOTO NATIONAL FORREST (WLOX) - It happened on the Big Foot horse trail, a recreation area located at the Harrison-Stone County line. A mother and daughter were accidentally shot by a deer hunter, a hunter who then carried the wounded child to his truck and took mom and daughter to a waiting ambulance. The tragedy sparks concerns and unanswered questions.
Horse Trail Rider Christian Papale said, "I was shaking. I just, I never in my life would have thought I'd ever see what I had seen."
Christian Papale was expecting a happy time on the horse trails Sunday afternoon.
Papale said, "Jordan was excited. This was their first time coming out. We were going to be here for a couple of hours and then go home. But it ended way different. A mix of horse riders and hunters made it different this time. This was opening weekend for deer season hunting... with dogs.
"Being an observant rider, keeping aware of my surroundings, saw the white truck, and not more than two minutes after that, that's when the first gunshot was," Papale said. "And I knew it was right on us. I knew he was right next to us. The group behind them also heard the shots."
Horse Trail Rider Cindy Campbell said, "We heard the two shots, and I looked at her and said that sure was close. And she said yes. And then we heard the screaming."
Papale recalled, "Jordan was screaming I'm scared; I'm scared. And no more than she got that out, the second shot went off."
That second shot did more than scare the horses and riders.
"Rebecca realized she had gotten shot in the leg. And she had started jumping off her horse when Jordan started screaming, 'It hurt; it hurt.' And we realized she wasn't screaming because she was scared. She was also shot," Papale said.
The two women and girls were in shock, as was the hunter who came to see what happened.
Papale: "At that point, I was looking around, screaming and screaming, 'You shot someone! You shot someone!' I'd seen that guy coming down from the road, walking towards us through the bushes," Papale remembered. "I said, 'Get over here. You've got to help us. You have to help us!'"
The hunter carried the wounded child to his truck and drove mother and daughter to a waiting ambulance. Horse riders wonder how their animals could be mistaken for deer.
Campbell said, "They're pretty high up. I just don't see how it could have been mistaken. I'm not saying the boy did this intentionally. But one shot, that could be an accident. Two shots? That's a problem."
"I hope that what this guy's gone through, I hope it puts a dent in his heart, and I hope he thinks about it for the rest of his life, 'cause I know I sure will," Papale said.
The Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks is investigating the accidental shooting. The deer hunter, 24-year-old Evan Joseph Kane of Perkinston, has been cited for 'hunting from a public road' which is a misdemeanor.