Virginia Conservation Police Notebook
October 11-24, 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
CPO, Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office, Find Lost Hunter – At approximately midnight on October 14, 2017, CPO Glenn Cramer was contacted by DGIF Dispatch in reference to an overdue hunter in Northumberland County. Cramer immediately contacted Senior CPO Ken Williams who was on a scheduled rest day. Williams knowing he was in a better position to respond than Cramer as he was over an hour away responded to the scene. Williams was met by the Northumberland Sheriff’s Office and the Callao Volunteer Fire Department. Due to his knowledge of the area Williams and a member of the Fire Department located the lost hunter in a wooded area. The lost hunter did not have a flashlight or cell phone. Williams escorted the hunter out of the woods and back to his vehicle.
D16 Activity– Even with archery season underway, there continues to be a significant amount of boating and fishing activity in district 16. On October 7 and 8th, CPO Josh Thomas conducted self-initiated boat patrols in the Mathews/Middlesex area on the Piankatank River. Several boating safety violations and fishing violations were detected. During one inspection where the fisherman showed his catch of Spot which he had in his cooler, CPO Thomas observed a fish tail sticking out from under some towels. The suspect had hidden undersize Black Drum under the towels. He said he didn’t know what kind of fish they were so he hid them.
D16 Activity– On October 14, 2017, CPO Joe Rollings, also working a self-initiated boat patrol in the Mathews/Middlesex area of the Piankatank River, identified several boat safety and fishing violations. One fisherman was showing his catch of Sheepshead and Spot fish when he learned the difference between a Sheepshead and a Black Drum. Once again summonses were issued for undersize Black Drum. The minimum size is 16 inches. The majority of these fish being caught seem to be running in the 10.5 inch range.
District 15- On October 13, 2017, CPOs Terry Jordan and Sgt. Randy Hickman were in a parking lot in New Kent County discussing work assignments when they noticed a young male run to the edge of the woods near the parking lot and begin to urinate in public. The officers watched the subject return to a pickup truck where another person was sitting in the driver’s seat. Both officers observed the passenger for a short period of time as he began to smoke from a pipe while trying to conceal his activity. The vehicle began to pull out of the parking area and the officers conducted a vehicle stop in the parking lot. Officer Jordan approached the driver and detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. A search of the vehicle resulted in over $2000 worth of illegal drugs being recovered to include marijuana, THC and an envelope of pure cocaine. The Regional Drug Task Force was called in to assist with the processing of the evidence. The passenger of the vehicle confessed to possessing the drugs and was charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine with the intent to distribute.
Region II – Southside
Bear Bait for Youth Bear Hunting Weekend – On opening morning of the youth bear hunting weekend CPOs John Daniel, K-9 CPO Richard Howald, and CPO Stephen Ritchie were working an operation on and illegal bear bait site in Amherst County. Officers Daniel and Howald had been monitoring the bait during the bear chase season and felt it would likely be hunted on this weekend. Unfortunately, their intuition was accurate as the landowner arrived and released dogs from the baited site before legal hunting hours while his two children were still asleep in the his truck. Officer Daniel placed the appropriate charges only on the adult.
DUI During Spotlighting Patrol – CPO Cory Harbour was patrolling for a location to work spotlighting in Campbell County on the night of Friday the 13th in October. He found himself in an area where he had received a report of suspicious activity late at night from a landowner in that area with a request to check the area when possible. Officer Harbour decided to ride to the end of the dead end road while he was there and found a vehicle trying to pull out of view, trespassing on railroad property. Cory exited his patrol vehicle and when he approached the suspicious vehicle, found a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat, both of which had been drinking and were still drinking beer. He then quickly discovered the woman was also hiding a handgun under her leg. Officer Harbour was able to gain control of the firearm then administer field sobriety tests ultimately leading to a charge for possession of a concealed weapon and a DUI arrest.
Call for Assistance – On Sunday, October 8, 2017, CPO Dale Owens responded to a call for assistance from the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office. He located a 16 year old in a wooded area that was threatening suicide. He was able to detain him until he could be transferred to Martinsville General Hospital for evaluation.
Fatal Tree Stand Incident – CPO Dale Owens is investigating a fatal tree stand incident that occurred in Patrick County on October 10, 2017. The victim, a 44 year old Patrick County man, is believed to have fallen 22 feet from a factory made platform tree-stand and died at the scene.
Kids Fishing Day – District 21 personnel participated in the Annual Kids Fishing Day at Waid Recreational Park in Franklin County on October 14, 2017. Youngsters enjoyed the beautiful day trout fishing.
Hunter Education Classes – District 21-25 personnel participated in numerous Hunter Education Classes throughout the 22 county Region in conjunction with hunting seasons that opened in September and continue into 2018.
Special Air Surveillance Patrols – District 25 personnel worked joint Special Air Surveillance Patrols in Brunswick and Mecklenburg Counties along the state line with North Carolina Wildlife Officers on October 21, 2017. The plane located violations in both Virginia counties and follow-up investigations are under way.
Numerous Bait Sites – District 21 and District 25 personnel continue to locate numerous bait sites and make appropriate charges as the result of many foot patrols and lengthy surveillance operations.
Region III – Southwest
Trespassers Digging Ginseng – On September 9, 2017 Virginia Conservation Police Officer James Brooks responded to a trespassing complaint in the Middle Creek section of Tazewell County. The property owner told Officer Brooks that he observed a male subject and two females on his posted property and they appeared to be digging ginseng. Officer Brooks was provided with a photograph of the suspect vehicle that included the license plate. Officer Brooks was able to locate the three suspects. He interviewed them, and located ginseng at the male suspect’s residence. Officer Brooks inspected the ginseng, and found several under age roots. The suspects stated they thought they were on property where they had permission. Magistrate summons’ were obtained and served.
CPOs Assist in Murder Call in Wise County – On October 1, 2017 Virginia Conservation Police Officer Mark VanDyke overheard a call for assistance to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Coeburn P.D. on a domestic/murder call in Wise County. It was reported male suspect had shot his wife in the front yard of their residence and was barricaded in the home. Due to their close proximity to the location of the call, District 34 CPO’s were among the first on scene and helped set a perimeter around the residence where the suspect was believed to be. The female victim was pulled to a safe location where CPR was administered, but lost her life. VSP and the Wise County Sheriff’s Office tact teams made entry to the residence. Virginia Conservation Police, Virginia State Police,, Norton Police Dept., Russell County Sheriff’s Office, Scott County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals participated in a search of the surrounding area after it was determined the suspect was not in the residence. A little later in the day, the officers received a tip that the suspect was in a section of National Forest in their normal patrol area. The Conservation Police Officers in District 34 were requested to assist in apprehending the suspect due to their unique knowledge of area and the ability to help saturate the areas to be searched. They broke up into teams in an attempt to locate the suspect in several directions. There was a need to utilize the DGIF patrol vehicles for their off road capabilities. After a long extensive search of approximately 3 counties, the suspect’s truck was located in Scott County near Gate City by an unmarked unit. A short chase ensued and the suspect’s vehicle was brought to a stop by the use of spike trips. District 34 CPO’s were among the first on scene after the vehicle was stopped. After a short standoff, the U.S. Marshalls and Wise County Tac Team approached the vehicle and found the suspect dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Trespass for Ginseng – On October 3, 2017 Virginia Senior CPO James Brooks received information that subjects were taking ginseng from private property in the Middle Creek section of Tazewell County. Officer Brooks found two suspects, interviewed them, and obtained confessions from both. One suspect also took ginseng from posted property in Buchanan County, and gave it to the second suspect to sell in Tazewell County. Both subjects were charged appropriately.
Subjects Charged with Hunting Over Bait – On October 7, 2017 Senior Officer George Shupe observed a parked truck with an empty utility trailer behind it. The officer noticed a worn out ATV trail heading into the woods and decided to try to locate the opening day archery hunters. Once on top of the ridge Officer Shupe located two hunters at different stands hunting over bait. One subject had a spinner feeder full of corn approximately 40 yards from the stand. The second hunter had a pile of corn on the ground less than 10 yards from the stand. Both subjects were charged with the violations.
Coffee with a CPO – On October 12, 2017 Virginia CPO Sgt. James Hale, CPOs Mark Vandyke, Dylan Harding and Derrick Rickels in cooperation with Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officers and Virginia Welcome Center Manager Jeff Hess, set up “Coffee With a CPO” at Bass Pro Shops in Bristol, TN. Noah Horn Well Drilling donated coffee, creamer and sugar. Bass Pro Shops donated fresh baked cookies. Officers gave out hunting and fishing regulations and answered questions posed by the public and employees of Bass Pro Shops.
Lee County Farm and Family Day – On Saturday October 14, 2017 CPO Corey Gardner attended the Lee County Farm & Family day hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension. The event was held at the Lincoln Memorial University Veterinary School Campus in Ewing, Virginia. Local agencies such as the USDA, DOF, DCR, and DGIF set-up information booths, and there were multiple education events for local farmers to attend. Officer Gardner attended to help develop relationships between Farmers and Sportsman to assist farmers in the protection of crops and herds from predators such as coyotes.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Golf Cart Evidence – On Friday, October 6, 2017, Senior CPO Beth McGuire received information concerning an illegal deer kill in Augusta County. Information obtained from landowner revealed evidence that a deer may have possibly been killed illegally on his property. This was due to the fact that the landowner found a broken piece of a golf cart that was covered with blood along with the remains of a deer. Officer McGuire discovered that the landowner gave permission to an adjoining neighbor to drive his golf cart on his property to search for his missing dog earlier that day. When Officer McGuire obtained all pertinent information she went to the suspects’ residence to question him concerning the evidence that was found. Upon arrival, fresh blood and deer parts were observed inside the garage in plain sight. Once the suspect realized the intentions of Conservation Police Officer McGuire he became uncompliant by shutting the garage door and attempting to conceal the evidence. Officer McGuire called for assistance from Senior Officer Ham and Officer Herndon to help with the investigation and to find additional evidence. After carefully speaking with the suspect a confession was obtained concerning the illegal deer along with other game law violations. In addition, further investigation through a search of the residence and the surrounding area revealed multiple federal violations for the illegal manufacture of homemade silencers, and felony possession of illegal drugs.
Ginseng Violators – On July 25, 2017, an Albemarle County landowner found two men trespassing on his property. The men stated that they were looking for a property that they had permission to cut firewood on. The landowner let the men go, but later discovered bags containing ginseng roots and digging tool near were the individuals had parked. The landowner contacted the local police department who handed the investigation over to Conservation Police Officer Chaffin. CPO Chaffin was able to determine the identities of the men and found that both had committed ginseng violations in the past. Officers Chaffin and Bostic located and interviewed the two individuals on October 4, and obtained written confessions to the violations. Appropriate charges are being discussed with the Commonwealth.