State be­lat­edly iden­ti­fies sus­pect in bear killing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Diane Pineiro-Zucker dpzucker@free­manon­ DianeAtFree­man on Twit­ter

The man who was tick­eted last month for fa­tally shoot­ing a black bear in this Shan­daken ham­let has been iden­ti­fied as Chris­tian Neal.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent at 11 p.m. Oct. 11, Neal was charged with shoot­ing a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, il­le­gally tak­ing wildlife and tak­ing wildlife dur­ing closed hours, all vi­o­la­tions of the state’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion Law.

Of­fi­cers with the Shan­daken po­lice and the state De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion who re­sponded to the scene found a black bear in a back­yard that had been fa­tally shot. Neal told of­fi­cers he shot the an­i­mal out of fear, but an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no ev­i­dence to sup­port that claim, the state agency said at the time.

The agency de­clined to pro­vide Neal’s name un­til last Thurs­day, when it did so in re­spond­ing to a se­cond Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Law (FOIL) re­quest filed by the Free­man.

The agency would not di­vulge Neal’s name im­me­di­ately af­ter the in­ci­dent and re­jected the first FOIL re­quest by the Free­man, stat­ing: “Records com­piled for law-en­force­ment pur­poses, which, if dis­closed, would in­ter­fere with law-en­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions or ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings,” are not sub­ject to re­lease and are “ex­empt from FOIL dis­clo­sure.”

In a Nov. 3 email to the news­pa­per, Robert Free­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state Com­mit­tee on Open Gov­ern­ment, wrote: “First, I’ve sug­gested a thou­sand times that we don’t have se­cret ar­rests in this coun­try.” He then cited an ad­vi­sory opin­ion that stated: “His­tor­i­cally, pub­lic are po­lice blot­ters and book­ing records, both of which were in­cluded among records avail­able pur­suant to FOIL as orig­i­nally en­acted in 1974.”

Free­man also said that, fol­low­ing an ar­rest, “the ac­cused[‘s] name, age, res­i­dence, em­ploy­ment, mar­i­tal sta­tus and sim­i­lar back­ground in­for­ma­tion” are a mat­ter of pub­lic record.

The news­pa­per ap­pealed the state’s de­nial im­me­di­ately af­ter re­ceiv­ing Free­man’s email.

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