Manslaughter Charge Filed In Death Of Hunter

By: Gary Smollen Email
By: Gary Smollen Email

Lee Koenig was charged with manslaughter Monday in connection with a fatal shooting over the weekend. Forty-seven-year-old Russell Christiansen was shot and killed while hunting near Yutan Saturday evening.

Was it a tragic accident or a case of manslaughter or murder?

Most people in Wahoo and the rest of Saunders County have already formed opinions about what happened on the Koenig's land.

Investigators were getting a bird's-eye view of the property Monday afternoon, using the state patrol helicopter to fly over the scene of the shooting.

Koenig's brother insists it was an accident and the investigation is far from over. "We just want the family to know how terribly sorry we are and how bad we feel," says Pat Koenig.

This part of Saunders County is known as "The Bottoms.” The Platte River is less than a half-mile to the east. It's covered with marsh and sporadic trees, the perfect place for Russ Christiansen to take his 15-year-old son to hunt.

While they were in this area just northwest of the house, Christiansen and his son may have been retrieving a deer the boy took when authorities say Christiansen was hit by Lee Koenig's shot.

"It was an unfortunate accident,” says Pat. “Lee was evidently trying to shoot a coyote, thought he was shooting a coyote, and accidentally hit Russ and just misidentified what he was shooting at."

It's the first rule of safe hunting, one that everyone who lives in a rural area knows.

"Everybody has to be aware there are many people out there and you have to be cautious of your surroundings, especially when you know someone is hunting in the vicinity of where you're at," says Saunders County Attorney Scott Tingelhoff.

It's advice that could have kept one man alive and kept his friend out of jail.

Channel 6 News spoke with the Christiansen family Monday. They say it's a very difficult time right now, especially for Russ' teenage son who was with him at the time.

"He's got to be going through living hell," says Pat. "He was in shock when I saw him here before he left. The boys were having a very hard time of it."

Pat says Russ was a great friend to both he and Lee.

Koenig was initially accused only of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Charges were amended Monday.

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