Czech Republic: Crossbow shooter claims death was accidental
Jaromír Šebesta, the 39-year-old man who shot a crossbow at a person he believed was a burglar in the village of Chotěbuz (Karvina district) in April 2012, went on trial yesterday before the Regional Court in Ostrava. He is charged with bodily harm resulting in death.
The defendant claims he never intended to attack anyone. Allegedly, the shooting happened accidentally when he tripped.
"I was aiming at the car. I didn't see any people. I tripped and released the arrow. I never intended to attack anyone," Šebesta told the court. He also insists that he aimed the arrow at a height that would have reached the waist of an adult person at the most.
Šebesta claims he merely wanted to defend his property against burglars. The building he was gradually fixing up and in which he was running a gym had allegedly been burgled several times. "They stole two motorcycles from me," he testified.
On that fateful day, a car with four Romani men in it drove up to the small house. They insist they were there to collect scrap metal.
Šebesta says the men were trying to break into his house. "They were in the basement. They weren't interested in scrap metal. They were looking for a way in," he said.
Šebesta claims he was afraid and grabbed his crossbow. He pulled back the bow and inserted an arrow into the mechanism. Thus armed, he then went outside and shouted at the alleged burglars that they must leave his land immediately. At first they did not respond. At the second warning, they allegedly started running and then, according to the shooter, the unfortunate accident happened and his weapon went off.
The arrow hit one man in the head. Several days later, the 39-year-old Romani victim died in the hospital.
Yesterday the defense attorney submitted a petition written by the residents of Chotěbuz to the judge prior to the start of the main hearing. The residents consider Šebesta a decent neighbor and disagree with his having been charged with an intentional felony. They claim that a group of burglars has long been horsing around in the village, breaking into people's gardens and houses. "We are asking for the laws to be changed so we can effectively protect our property," the petition organizers said.
It came to light during the trial yesterday that Šebesta will soon be facing another criminal prosecution for charges of sexual abuse. Two girls have alleged that he groped them and masturbated in front of them. The girls had paid him a visit of their own free will at the start of the year in the small house where he has his gym.
The state prosecutor is now deciding whether to discontinue the prosecution of that case because Šebesta faces the possibility of more severe sentencing if found guilty of the crossbow shooting. He rejects the sexual abuse charges as well.
"Those girls trumped up those charges against me. I will explain everything when the police interrogate me," he said.
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