Ex-felon denied right to hunt with firearm
Elyria, Ohio — A Lorain County judge has denied a Grafton hunter’s request to hunt with firearms because of the man’s prior murder conviction.
Kevin Bernaciak, 57, sought limited relief from owning or possessing a firearm so he could hunt deer, rabbits, pheasants and squirrels with a shotgun during season, attorney Kenneth Lieux told Judge James Miraldi Jan. 23 in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
Bernaciak fulfilled requirements for having a lifetime gun ban lifted, Lieux said, by leading an “exemplary life,” by completing a five-year parole without violations, obtaining employment, obeying Ohio laws, and “being a productive member of society” since release from prison in 2001.
Bernaciak was convicted of murder in the 1986 shooting death of another hunter during a dispute while on a deer hunting trip in Coshocton County.
Miraldi told Lieux that while he made “an impressive case” for Bernaciak, the case shows how a gun can be used to commit a crime.
“I can't comfortably put a gun in his hands after what happened so long ago,” Miraldi said. “I have concerns something might happen. I don’t want to take that chance.”
Assistant County Prosecutor Richard Gronsky said the 1986 fatal shooting was not a mistake, noting Bernaciak was indicted on a charge of aggravated murder but found guilty by a jury of a lesser count of murder.
“This was a gun pointed at point-blank range at a person’s back,” Gronsky said. “This occurred at a hunting cabin with alcohol involved.”
Gronsky said Bernaciak can still enjoy nature and legally hunt game with other methods, such as long bow, crossbow, air rifle and trapping.
After the hearing, Bernaciak said he didn’t mean to shoot the other hunter in 1986, saying his gun discharged when he fell down in a doorway.
“I feel sorry for the victim’s family,” he said.
Bernaciak said he will continue to hunt, despite denied firearms. He said he shot a bear with a bow in Alaska several years ago.