COLUMBIA -- A hunting shooting death in Chester County, initially called an accident by officials, is now under investigation as a homicide.
An autopsy was not performed immediately after the death of Touna Xiong, 33, of York County.
Concerned, Xiong's family called Columbia lawyer Dennis Bolt, who arranged for a private autopsy and pushed authorities to investigate the case further.
Xiong was killed Oct. 11 in the Sumter National Forest, in northwest Chester County. It's unclear who was in the woods at the time and who might have fired a weapon.
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Newberry County pathologist Janice Ross, hired by the Xiong family, did the private autopsy, finding that a bullet from a high-powered rifle killed Xiong.
Ross concluded Xiong's death was a "homicide" the killing of one human by another, according to her Oct. 21 written report.
"That doesn't mean they (anyone) lay in wait and hatched a plot, but at the very least it could be extreme recklessness," Bolt said.
The state Department of Natural Resources responded to the scene. A DNR investigator is gathering evidence to give to 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield.
"We are waiting on a ballistics report from SLED," said Sgt. Michael Reeves, one of two DNR investigators who look into hunting fatalities. "As soon as I get that, I will go to the solicitor with my findings, and he will decide where to go from there."
Reeves declined comment on the incident and investigation details.
Chester County coroner Terry Tinker told media organizations after the shooting that a hunter apparently mistook Xiong for a deer.
Bolt, family members and the family-initiated autopsy gave this version of events:
Xiong and four relatives were wrapping up an afternoon's hunting in the Sumter National Forest in northwest Chester County. Xiong, who had been wearing a bright orange vest, took the vest off and descended from a tree stand.
Xiong was standing next to his brother-in-law, Yang Vue, 40, when the first of three shots rang out.
About three seconds later, a second shot rang out. It struck within several feet of the first shot.
Xiong took off running at a crouch. About three seconds later, a third shot was fired, hitting Xiong in the back.