A Missoula County coroner's inquest held on Friday, October 11 has cleared a Missoula man, Justin Nelson, 21, of criminal charges in the shooting death of his friend Chad Goodman, 23.

According to Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks, the shooting occurred on August 18 in Nelson's apartment on Turner Street on Missoula's North Side.

"According to the information that came out at the inquest, Mr. Nelson had a new pistol that he was showing to Mr. Goodman," Marks said. "They had both been looking at it, examining it, generally messing with it. Goodman handed the pistol back to Nelson. He went to check the pistol to make sure there wasn't a round in the chamber. They were sitting next to each other and something went wrong. Somehow or other, there was a round in the chamber, and in an effort to clear it, the pistol fired and struck Chad Goodman."

Marks said it did not appear that Goodman died instantly.

"I couldn't speak to exactly that, but I don't believe he was showing any signs of life when the paramedics took him to the hospital," Marks said.

Marks said Nelson was cleared of any possible criminal charges from the incident.

"The finding of the coroner's jury was that Goodman's death was not the result of a crime," Marks said. "In essence, I think the question for the jury is whether the young man who had the gun and then fired the shot was negligent in the civil meaning of the term, or had committed criminal negligence."

Marks said the coroner's jury took about 30 minutes to arrive at their decision.

Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks