Local News

Family: Dispute Over Pine Straw Leads To Shooting

Posted June 20, 2005

— The family of a man accused of killing another person said he was protecting his livelihood against trespassers.

Veronica Torres' husband, Claudio Gutierrez, is wanted for shooting and killing Francisco Bautista at Fort Bragg last week. Torres said her husband pays thousands of dollars for the right to rake pine straw on Fort Bragg and then sell it.

According to the family, Gutierrez spotted some men trying to steal the pine straw. He fired shots into the air. When the bullets came down, two struck 44-year-old Francisco Batista and killed him.

"He works and works and works for you, you know, so we can live a good life," Torres said.

Gutierrez is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Torres said she contacted Fort Bragg officials. Those officials could not confirm how many times the family called authorities. They also did not comment on whether Gutierrez broke the law by firing or even having a weapon on federal property.

WRAL was unable to contact the victim's family.

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