Nearly two years after Jason Coote was killed by a hunter who said he mistook the teenager for an animal at Bucks County State Park, his parents, Ronald and Dana Coote, have kept their son’s legacy alive by holding events, creation of a non-profit organizationn and more.
“We’re just trying to turn a negative into a positive, so hopefully something like this never happens again,” Ronald Coote said Sunday.
Pennsylvania took a positive step last week when officials announced the state would ban rifles and handguns from hunting areas in four of its parks, including Nockamixon State Park in Bucks County, where Jason Coote was killed. Specifically, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, hunting is now prohibited with centerfire and rimfire rifles and pistols.
The state did not highlight the tragic shooting of Kutsov’s son in its Tuesday news release by declaring a ban on weapons.
“DCNR State Parks staff have worked diligently with key stakeholders to develop new firearm restrictions to improve public safety while continuing to provide opportunities for those who hunt in state parks,” said John Halas, director of state parks. “We expect all parties to follow the rules and regulations when visiting state parks and recreation areas to ensure the health and safety of our visitors.”
Ronald Cutt said he and his wife which created the Jason Katt Legacy Fund advocate for safer rules for state parks, pushed for a ban. But Coote said conservation officials, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub and area lawmakers were among the stakeholders involved in the change.
“We’re just trying to create safer parks,” he said.
Jason Kat was 18 years old when he was shot and killed by a hunter on October 24, 2020 while watching the sunset with his girlfriend, Erin Richardson. Kenneth T. Heller of Warminster pleaded guilty last year in this case he was sentenced to seven to twenty years in prison.
Heller was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, possession of a deadly weapon, failure to render aid after a hunting incident and other charges in what prosecutors described as a tragic but criminal hunting incident. Authorities said Heller shot and killed Kutt with a bullet from a .17-caliber Marlin rifle.
Gun hunters won’t be able to use the weapons right away, state officials said, in Nockamixon, which is in Haycock and Bedminster townships. The new rules also apply to Evansburg State Park in Montgomery County and Marsh Creek State Park and White Clay Creek Preserve in Chester County.
Shotguns, muzzle-loading weapons, and bows and arrows are still permitted during established hunting seasons, except in the White Clay Creek Preserve, where only muzzle-loading weapons and bows and arrows are permitted.
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Conservation officials said visitor safety would be enhanced by restricting the use of rifles and pistols for hunting in these state recreation parks. Hunting in state parks is only allowed in designated areas during designated times, and the department recommends that non-hunters wear orange clothing during hunting seasons to make themselves more visible.
Ronald Coote said the Coote family is not done with efforts to improve security at the park. And in addition to these efforts, they have held various fundraisers to support the needs of the community. A Action “Party in the park”. beginning at 1:00 pm on September 10 at the Univest Performance Center in Quakertown. Search eventbrite.com for more information.
“We’re trying to do it,” Ronald Coote said of the park event. In addition to several bands scheduled to perform, there will be a guitar by the rock band Poison, which performed at Musikfest, he said.
Kat, of Sellersville, said he was overwhelmed by how Poison members discussed his son’s life, his love of music and more, as well as his tragic death. “Talking to them, they knew about [Jason],” he said. “They said, ‘It was the guy with the red hair.’ It’s amazing how far it’s gone.”
Questions about the new rules can be sent by email firstname.lastname@example.org at 717-787-6640 or 800-654-5984 (TDD users) for the hearing and speech impaired.
In its release, the state also reminded those who hunt in state parks:
- Exercise extreme caution with firearms at all times as other non-hunters use the park during hunting seasons.
- Use firearms and archery equipment only on authorized hunting grounds during hunting season.
- Store firearms in vehicles or other locations when not in use or during non-hunting season.
Contact Morning Call reporter Anthony Salamone at email@example.com.