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No felony charges in Stearns County accidental rifle death

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - No manslaughter charges will be filed in the death of a 19-year-old man whose friend accidentally shot him in the chest with a semiautomatic rifle near St. Stephen, the Stearns County Attorney's office said.

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Cody Waytashek of Royalton died on Jan. 25 after he and three other friends had gathered after a day of shooting in the woods. Authorities said Michael Fautsch, 21, of Royalton believed the .22-caliber rifle was empty when he pointed it at Waytashek and pulled the trigger.

Waytashek was shot once in the chest and died at St. Cloud Hospital. Witnesses told investigators that Fautsch had previously pulled the trigger and the gun just clicked, so they believed it was empty.

County Attorney Janelle Kendall said the investigation determined Fautsch should not be charged with felony manslaughter because although his actions were careless and he did cause Waytashek's death, he believed the gun was empty and even "racked" the rifle to expel any shells.

Fautsch was charged Thursday with intentionally pointing a gun at another person, a misdemeanor. Two other friends at the scene will not face charges.

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