Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

July 19-August 1, 2017

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.

Region I – Tidewater

Osprey Rescued – On July 19, 2017, Sergeant Rich Goszka and CPO Matt Dean responded to a call of an injured osprey on the Downing Bridge Crossing the Rappahannock River between Essex and Richmond Counties. The CPOs located the bird near the middle of the bridge on the narrow concrete walkway. The officers stopped vehicle traffic on the narrow 1 mile long bridge and were able to quickly capture the bird. The bird was transported to a local wildlife rehabilitator.

BUI – On Saturday July 22, CPO Murray was on patrol in Northampton County. As he arrived at the Kiptopeke State Park boat ramp, he observed a center console motorboat leaving the dock after sunset without displaying the required navigation lights. CPO Murray decided to check shoreline fisherman while waiting for the boat to return. Around 10:40pm, the motorboat returned to the dock area- still not displaying the required navigation lights. CPO Murray stopped the motorboat and conducted a safety check. CPO Murray found a large amount of beer onboard, and determined the operator had been consuming alcohol. The NASBLA Seated Battery of SFST’s were administered. The operator of the motorboat was offered a preliminary breath test, and placed under arrest for operating a motorboat under the influence.  A breath sample of 0.08 was provided at the Eastern Shore Regional Jail.

Region II – Southside

Missing Person Becomes Drowning Victim – District 21 and 22 Conservation Police Officers responded to a 911 call on Smith Mountain Lake on Saturday morning, July 22nd.  The original call was for a missing person at Pelican Point Marina and Yacht Club.  A 58 year old Nelson County man had not been seen since before sunrise that morning.  After an unsuccessful search of the area around moored boats and on land, divers were brought in for a search near the boat dock.  Shoes believed to have been worn by the missing man were found in the water near the boat that he and family members had been sleeping in.  Divers entered the water and located the missing man in seventeen feet of water and brought him to the surface at approximately 12:56 pm.  The decedent was positively identified by a family member and transported to the Regional ME Office for an autopsy.  The investigation is continuing.

CPO’s Prompt Action makes our Highways Safer – On Saturday night, July 29, 2017, CPO Matt Sandy was returning home from a boat patrol on Buggs Island Lake when he encountered a vehicle that was driving erratically on Highway 903 in Mecklenburg County.  He stopped the vehicle and the 54 year old Bracey man failed field sobriety tests and the PBT registered .169.  He stated that he was almost home when he was stopped and arrested for DUI by Officer Sandy.  The suspect indicated that he had just left a bar.  He tested .14 on the intoxilyzer at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

Region III – Southwest

Farmer’s Photo Assists with Investigation – During the 2016 hunting season, Conservation Police Officer Cody Hash received information regarding numerous cattle being shot on one particular farm in Smyth County.  He relayed the information to investigators with the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office who had been working the case for over a year.  During the months following the closure of hunting season, a suspect was developed from information given to CPO Hash and SCSO Investigators.  The owner/farmer had a game camera picture from July 22, 2016, of an unknown individual hunting with a long gun.  On July 11, 2017, an interview was conducted with the main suspect who admitted to shooting the cattle and also admitted to illegally squirrel hunting on the day the picture was taken.  When the suspect came to the door for the interview, he was wearing the same attire that was worn the day the game camera picture was taken.   DGIF placed several hunting related charges and the SCSO will be placing additional charges including felony destruction of property.

Narcotics and Angling Do Not Mix – On July 18, 2017, Conservation Police Officer Morgan O’Quinn and Sergeant Jamie Davis were on patrol on the Holston River in the Alvarado section of Washington County.  They came upon a pickup truck sitting in a spot frequently used by anglers.  As they pulled up beside the vehicle, a male subject quickly removed a rolled cigarette out of his mouth and threw it.  Sergeant Davis asked the subject what he just threw and he stated that he was just having a cigarette on his lunch break.   Upon approaching the car, an odor commonly associated with the smell of marijuana was present.  When asked again where the item was he threw, the subject stated it was a marijuana cigarette. The cigarette was recovered and the appropriate charges were placed on the individual.

ATV Operation Leads to DUI Arrest – On July 21, 2017, at approximately 1600 hours, Conservation Police Sergeant James Hale and Officer Derrick Rickels were patrolling the Flannagan Lake area of Dickenson County. Sgt. Hale noticed an ATV coming up behind them and very rapidly closing the distance.  Sgt. Hale initiated a stop of the ATV.  Upon speaking to the operator, he detected the odor commonly associated with consuming alcohol.  The operator stated that he had “two beers”.   He was asked to perform Field Sobriety Tasks and patted down for officer safety.  A .22 caliber derringer was found in his left back pocket.  He had no concealed weapon permit.  Officer Rickels administered the FST’s and the suspect performed poorly.  He was offered a PBT and his BAC result was 0.127.  He was subsequently arrested.  The suspect later stated that he had been drinking since noon and had about 12 beers.  Later at the Intoxilyzer, he tested 0.09 BAC.   He was charged with operating an ATV on a highway, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and DUI.

ATV and Out of Season Ginseng – On July 29, 2017, Senior CPO George Shupe and CPO Matthew Arnold arrested a subject in Buchanan County for failure to appear to circuit court in Bland County.  The subject was previously charged with possession of schedule II drugs and possession of a firearm as a felon by Senior Officer Shupe in 2016.  While the Officers were waiting for the subject to appear at his last known address, they observed an ATV with two adult males riding on the highway, without helmets, pull into the driveway.  The Officers made their approach and identified the wanted subject from the previous capias.  On the front of the ATV, the Officers found 42 ginseng roots, along with digging tools.  The subject admitted digging the ginseng, knowing the season doesn’t start until September 1st.  Among the roots, four were less than five years old; the legal age to harvest.  The subject was taken to Haysi Regional Jail for the capias and the other appropriate charges were placed.

Public Outreach – On July 28, 2017, CPO Morgan O’Quinn attended the Virginia Department of Transportation’s annual safety picnic at the Abingdon Headquarters.  Officer O’Quinn gave a presentation on Boating and Hunting Safety as well as covered the new game law changes to a large crowd of VDOT employees.  The event was a huge success.

ATV Operation Leads to DUI Arrest – On July 21, 2017, at approximately 1600 hours, Conservation Police Sergeant James Hale and Officer Derrick Rickels were patrolling the Flannagan Lake area of Dickenson County.  Sgt. Hale noticed an ATV coming up behind them and very rapidly closing the distance.  Sgt. Hale initiated a stop of the ATV.  Upon speaking to the operator, he detected the odor commonly associated with consuming alcohol.  The operator stated that he had “two beers”.   He was asked to perform Field Sobriety Tasks and patted down for officer safety.  A .22 caliber derringer was found in his left back pocket.  He had no concealed weapon permit.  Officer Rickels administered the FST’s and the suspect performed poorly.  He was offered a PBT and his BAC result was 0.127.  He was subsequently arrested.  The suspect later stated that he had been drinking since noon and had about 12 beers.  Later at the Intoxilyzer, he tested 0.09 BAC.   He was charged with operating an ATV on a highway, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and DUI.

UPDATE: 

The case outlined above recently took an unusual twist.  We received an anonymous tip with specific information that led us to believe that the individual we arrested gave us false information.  Our follow-up investigation revealed that he gave us his brother’s information.

Sergeant James Hale and CPOs Derrick Rickels, Dylan Harding and Mark VanDyke began in intense investigation.  Between July 25 and July 28, 2017, CPOs received several informational leads on the fugitive’s whereabouts.  As a result, the fugitive was located and arrested on July 28th.  In addition to the fugitive, this investigation uncovered many other individuals in violation of state law.  A total of 23 charges were placed by Conservation Police Officers with additional charges to be taken out by Dickenson County Sheriff’s Office.  Charges by Conservation Officers were as follows: trespassing (x5), destruction of property, obstruction of justice (x4), furnish a firearm to a felon, DUI(3rd or subsequent), ATV on highway, possess firearm by felon, possess concealed firearm by felon, forgery/uttering, forge public records, I.D. theft, False info to LEO, possess marijuana, ginseng offenses(x3).

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Revoked – On July 9, 2017, Senior CPO Jon Simmons was on routine patrol at the old mill in the Town of Rapidan in Culpeper County when he observed an individual drinking beer and other individuals with fishing gear on posted property near the Rapidan River.  Senior CPO Simmons went to make contact with the men, but they made it to their car before Simmons could speak with them along the river.  Senior CPO Simmons made contact with the men at their vehicle as the suspect who was observed drinking beer was entering the driver’s side of the car.  The suspect denied drinking and stated he left his identification at home.  There was an open 12 pack of Miller beer in the vehicle and Officer Simmons could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.  The suspect stated to Officer Simmons that someone else had driven the men to the location.  One of the men then stepped up and stated he drove the vehicle.  It turned out that the person admitting to driving had no valid Virginia driver’s license.  The story from the men was just not adding up.  Senior CPO Simmons mirandized the men and began to investigate closer, checking fishing licenses and driver’s licenses along with permission to be on the prohibited property.  As a result of Senior CPO Simmons investigation, the suspect, and ultimately charged individual admitted to driving while suspended/revoked, trespassing, consuming alcohol in public, littering, possession of marijuana, and carrying a concealed weapon (a loaded Star Firestar .45 caliber pistol).  The suspect also led Senior CPO Simmons to the location where the suspect threw the beer bottle into the bushes.  The friend that stated he drove to the location said he only said that because he knew his friend was revoked.  The registered owner of the car said she knew the suspect had the vehicle and allowed the suspect to drive it knowing his driver’s license was revoked.  The suspect was charged with trespassing, consuming alcohol in public, littering, and carrying a concealed weapon.  He was verbally warned for other offenses and one of the licensed, sober friends was able to drive the group from the location.

  • August 3rd, 2017