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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

January 30 – February 19, 2019

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

Dumped Deer Carcass Solved – On January 16th, Virginia CPO Bonnie Braziel responded to a call in Chesapeake reference a dumped deer carcass on a landowner’s property.  CPO Braziel noticed that the carcass was at least a couple weeks old but also saw an ATV path  through the brush leading to a residence about 200 yards away. Through her investigative process, she was able to identify the homeowner as the culprit who dumped a legally killed deer carcass illegally on someone else’s property by dragging it there on his ATV.  Charges were placed for the illegal dumping.

Saturation Patrol on Back Bay – On January 26th, District 13 CPOs Braziel, Druy and Corley teamed up with K-9 Officer Patrillo, and partner Bailey, to conduct a saturation patrol on Back Bay, in Virginia Beach, to inspect waterfowl hunters. Back Bay is a very popular waterfowl hunting area with many blinds spread throughout the bay. Numerous blinds and hunters were inspected for compliance by all of the officers.  Summonses for no state hunting licenses, no state waterfowl stamps and no federal duck stamp were issued during the saturation patrol along with several warnings.  The presence of the K-9 in this area for the first time seemed to cause quite a curiosity buzz among the waterfowl hunters and many were impressed with the capabilities of the canine and his handler.

CPO Participates in Literacy Month Program – On January 29th, CPO Bonnie Braziel participated in a literacy month program at Cooke Elementary School in Virginia Beach.  CPO Braziel read books to the 2nd and 5th graders at the school and answered questions afterwards about the duties of a CPO.  Her presentation was well received and she was invited back for the school career day in April.

Juveniles Charges with Destruction of Public Property on WMA –On January 29, CPO Braziel decided to patrol the Cavalier WMA in Chesapeake.  She noticed some fresh tire tracks in the fields where a vehicle had done some “donuts” and tore up the ground.  While continuing her patrol in another part of the WMA, she received a call from a concerned citizen who reported two vehicles up to “no good” on a different part of the WMA.  CPO Braziel made contact with one of the vehicles as it sped out of the fields onto the public highway.  Upon stopping the vehicle, she found the occupants to be five juveniles under the age of 16 years old.  The driver admitted to doing “donuts” in the field earlier and also to just getting his driver’s license for which he only had his temporary paper copy.  The juvenile intake office was contacted and a charge for destruction of public property was initiated.

Abduction Arrest – On Jan. 29, 2019 Virginia CPO Chester heard a call for service dispatched by the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office for the report of abduction.  The information provided by Dinwiddie SO advised that a female had been abducted by her boyfriend in North Carolina and were currently traveling north on Interstate 85 through Dinwiddie County.  An initial traffic stop was conducted on what was believed to be the suspect vehicle.  After determining that the vehicle that was stopped was not the correct vehicle, Officer Chester continued to canvass the area looking for the vehicle.  CPO Brandon Robinson made contact with Officer Chester to obtain information on the suspect vehicle.  Officer Robinson took up a position on Interstate 95, anticipating that the vehicle would continue to travel north.  Officer Robinson was able to locate the vehicle in Chesterfield County.  Officer Robinson maintained visual contact with the vehicle until assisting units arrived.  Officers Robinson and Chester, along with Chesterfield County PD and State Police conducted a felony stop of the vehicle.  The suspect was taken into custody without incident.  The female was located showing signs of being physically assaulted.  The investigation was turned over to State Police.

Complainant Provides Video and Still Photos that Lead to Investigation and Charges – On the next to last Saturday of the general firearms deer season, CPO Hennaman and Sgt. Valasek responded to a call of someone shooting a deer from the road.  The complainant was able to get good video and still photos of the perpetrator in the act of committing the offense. Officer Hennaman, and Sgt.  Valasek were able to locate the driver and the truck.   The driver would admit to the violation being committed, but denied any knowledge of the identity of the shooter, which was obviously fabricated.  His firearm was seized for evidentiary purposes.   Sgt. Valasek reached out to several informants and the next morning he was contacted by an informant who stated that he did not have a name, but was sure it was one of the local law enforcement officers.   With further investigation, Officer Hennaman was able to identify the perpetrator.  Numerous visits to the suspect’s residence were not answered.  The suspect was finally contacted, interviewed and confessed to the incident.  Additionally, Officer Hennaman was able to show that another individual from the hunting party went onto the posted property and killed the deer with a pistol, committing two violations in the process.  Charges for the shooter are forthcoming, and an in house investigation with the local authority was initiated.

Warrants and Game Violations Land Subject in Jail – In early December 2018 Virginia CPOs Morris and Thomas started an investigation regarding trespassing to hunt in Gloucester County. A witness reported seeing an individual get dropped off on the side of RTE 14 and walk into the woods in the morning. Later that same day another witness saw an individual get picked up off the side of RTE 14 in the same area. This witness was able to provide a vehicle tag number and description of the suspect. They also followed the car to a house nearby. Officer Thomas was able to track where the suspect had been in the woods. He located 3 different spots where the suspect had setup under trees to hunt. Multiple landowners in the area were interviewed and none had given anyone permission to hunt. Officers Morris and Thomas went to the address of the suspect and conducted an interview. Through questioning multiple people in the residence, a suspect was quickly developed and he admitted that he was the person that was seen walking into the woods. He admitted to trespassing to hunt and license violations. During the interview the suspect was found to have an active warrant on file from a neighboring jurisdiction. Gloucester Sheriff’s Office arrested the suspect on the outstanding warrant and transported him to jail. The suspect was charged with the appropriate game violations.

Suspect Confesses after Being Confronted with Evidence – On November 30, 2018 Virginia CPO Sergeant Woodruff received information that a deer was found with the head cut off in Greensville County.  Sgt. Woodruff and multiple officers patrolled the area during the month of December hoping to get tips from the surrounding hunt clubs without success.  On January 16, 2019 Sgt. Woodruff received additional information about a possible suspect for spotlighting the deer in question.  Sgt. Woodruff and Officer Gilmore interviewed multiple people and developed an exact time the deer was killed and a photo of the suspect holding the severed deer head.  Afterwards, the two officers interviewed the suspect about the crime.  He initially denied shooting the deer, but confessed after being confronted with the evidence.   The suspect was charged for trespassing and taking deer at night.

Extensive Investigation Lead CPOs to Seeking Charges on Illegal Trophy Deer Kill – On January 15, 2019 at approximately 0100 hours, Virginia CPO Sergeant Woodruff received a call from a citizen that someone was shooting deer in a field near his residence in Southampton County.  The citizen approached the suspects and they retreated back to the vehicle and left the area.  Later that morning Officer Chitwood responded to the location to conduct an investigation.  Officer Chitwood met with several members of the community.  They located a trophy buck that was shot and killed in the field at the edge of the tree line.  Officer Chitwood also obtained a license plate for the suspect’s vehicle from a citizen.  Later that day Officer Chitwood interviewed 3 people in Greensville County associated with the address of the suspect.  The statements given to Officer Chitwood left more questions than answers.  After about 10 days and continued investigative efforts, Officer Chitwood made contact with the owner of the vehicle again, which ended unsuccessfully.  After several hours, the same person called Officer Chitwood back and stated that he would arrange to meet with officers and bring the suspect with him for an interview.  Later that night the suspect, a juvenile, met with Officer Chitwood and confessed to the crimes.  He also provided Officer Chitwood with all of the pieces to a .30-06 rifle, which had been cut up with an angle grinder.  After the initial interview on January 15th the suspect got scared and destroyed the gun so police could not involve him with the crime.  At the same time Officer Chitwood was interviewing the suspected shooter, Sgt. Woodruff tracked down a second suspect, who was an adult, to conduct an interview.  The officers asked a variety of questions that made it difficult for the suspects to formulate a story.  The officers determined the suspects were most likely telling the truth.  Officer Chitwood will be seeking charges this week for the violations.

Old Tires Dumped at Joyner’s Bridge Boat Landing – On January 22, 2019 Virginia CPO Gilmore and Sgt. Woodruff were traveling to Greensville for a follow-up investigation for multiple tagging violations that were discovered while interviewing a suspect for shooting deer at night.  The officers received a tip from the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office crime line about a person dumping tires at the Joyner’s Bridge boat landing.  The tipster provided photos and a license plate of the suspect.  The officers responded to the residence of the suspect and located the suspect’s vehicle in the driveway, but no one would answer the door.  Later that day the officers made contact with the suspect who confessed to dumping the tires at the boat ramp.  The suspect stated that the local refuse collection site would not accept tires and the boat ramp was the nearest area to dump them.  He was remorseful for his actions and picked up the dumped tires that were partially submerged along the riverbank.  Officer Gilmore charged the suspect for the violation.

CPOs and K9 Locate Hunter and Bait – During the final week of deer season CPO K-9 Officer Wes Billings, and partner Josie, patrolled district 14 to help with calls for service and give the local officers an opportunity to work with a canine.  Officers Billings and Rollings patrolled an area in Surry where Officer Rollings had previously found baiting activity.  The officers ran several paths and located bait deep into the property.  On the last evening of the season the officers returned and found a hunter in a different location.  After interviewing him, he admitted to placing the bait and hunting the property.  Officer Rollings issued a summons for the violation.

K9 Pinpoints Evidence that Leads to Charges – On the last day of the hunting season Virginia CPO Sgt. Woodruff received a call from dispatch about someone shooting across the roadway in the Branchville area of Southampton County.  K-9 Officer Billings responded to the area to assist.  When the officers interviewed the complainant they learned that the complainant did not witness the violation, but was close by when it occurred.  Without a specific location the officers had several hundred yards of roadway where the crime could have occurred.  Officer Billings, with the help of Josie, was able to locate a discharged shotgun shell, shot cup, and blood droplets several yards into the woods from the roadway.  The officers patrolled the area in search of the suspect’s vehicle.  Sgt. Woodruff observed a vehicle matching the description several roads away behind a farm house.  After being confronted with the evidence, the suspect admitted to shooting across the roadway.  The suspect was even surprised to learn that he had actually hit the deer.  Sgt. Woodruff charged the suspect with shooting across the roadway.

Suspect Dumping Deer Carcasses Charged – At the end of deer season Virginia CPO Chitwood received a call from a citizen about a person dumping deer carcasses off a bridge in Southampton County.  The citizen provided Officer Chitwood with a possible license plate of the suspect’s vehicle.  Officer Chitwood followed up on the tip and located the suspect.  When questioned, the suspect admitted to dumping 4 carcasses off the bridge.  Officer Chitwood charged the suspect for the violations.

Taboo Wood Duck -On Feb. 9, 2019 CPO B.W. Chester was contacted by a source in reference to subjects hunting waterfowl over bait.  At 0651 hours the source confirmed that there was a vehicle on location in Dinwiddie County.  Officer Chester arrived on scene and located a pickup truck parked at the edge of a field.  He was able to observe goose decoys, a blind bag, and two large bags of corn in the dog box that was in the bed of the truck.  Officer Chester took up a position where he could observe the hunting activity.  While observing the swamp, 3 flocks of Canada Geese flew over the area.  Officer Chester was able to hear the hunters calling the geese as they approached.  Approximately an hour into his observation Officer Chester was able to hear wood ducks flying in the area of the swamp.  Two wood ducks flew out of the swamp and then circled back into the swamp.  A few moments after the ducks crossed back into the swamp, Officer Chester heard five shotgun blasts.  One wood duck flew back out of the swamp.  Officer Chester observed a white male with light colored hair walk out into the swamp and retrieve one wood duck.  As the male subject walked back to the edge of the swamp Officer Chester was able to hear him talking with another subject. Officer Chester made contact with the subjects as they approached the truck.  Officer Chester asked where the duck was that the one hunter retrieved.  He stated “I shot it”, I squished it”.  Officer Chester walked back to the area where the subjects were hunting and located several piles of corn in close proximity to where the hunters were previously hunting.  Officer Chester observed the subject that shot the wood duck retrieve it from the mud. The appropriate summonses were issued for hunting over bait and taking during a closed season.

CPO’s Assist with Polar Plunge – On Feb 2, 2019 CPOs from District 13 assisted as safety personnel for the annual Polar Plunge in Virginia Beach. CPOs Dan Corley, Bonnie Braziel  and Sarah Druy, along with other local police officers and the  Virginia Beach Rescue Squad, endured water temperatures around 40 degrees at the beach to assist in the annual charity fundraising event. Approximately 3700 people attended the event as money was raised for the Special Olympics. As a result of their efforts, everyone who entered the water that day returned safely to the beach.

Region II – Southside

Felonious Rabbit Hunter Arrested – On February 2, 2019, Virginia CPO Justin Rogers received a call in reference to several subjects trespassing to hunt with dogs in Buckingham County.  Upon arrival at the location, Rogers located three suspects dressed in camouflage and blaze orange.  The subjects stated they were rabbit hunting and were unsure of the property boundaries.  At the complainant’s request, the subjects were given a warning for trespassing.  However, a criminal history check revealed one of the subjects had a prior felony conviction.  The subject who was in possession of a firearm, stated his rights had been restored.  The subject produced a letter signed by Governor Northam removing his “political disabilities” except for his rights to “ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.”  The subject was placed in custody for felony possession of a firearm and transported to the Buckingham County Magistrate’s office where he was denied bond due to the violent nature of his prior felony conviction.

Two Traps and a Pile – On January 29, 2019, CPO Shane Wilson was on patrol in Mecklenburg County and came across a pile of hog fat in a small cutover.  Upon further investigation, he was able to locate two traps that had been triggered.  Officer Wilson contacted Officer Matthew Sandy for assistance about the find and was able to locate a metal ID tag on one of the traps.  On January 30, 2019 Officer Wilson returned to the location to find the two traps had been reset and the bait pile had grown.  Armed with the knowledge the site was active, Officer Wilson then placed a camera in hopes of catching a glimpse of the trappers.  On February 2, 2019, he retrieved his camera and was able to get footage of the two suspected trappers checking their traps.  On February 3, 2019, Wilson, assisted by Officer Tyler Blanks, was able to make contact with the trappers and received a confession from both of them.  Appropriate charges have been placed.

Road Hunters Caught – On January 26, 2019, CPO Gavin Fariss received information in reference to two subjects trespassing to hunt and shooting from the road in Prince Edward County.  Utilizing the information provided, Fariss identified an adult male and his juvenile son as potential suspects.  Fariss conducted a follow up investigation and was able to determine the adult male was driving a vehicle with his juvenile son in the passenger seat when they spotted a squirrel on property they do not have permission to hunt.  The adult stopped the vehicle and allowed the juvenile to exit and shoot at the squirrel while standing in the roadway.  The adult stated he did not think it would be a “big deal”.  Fariss communicated his findings to both the complainant and the Prince Edward Commonwealth Attorney’s Office which led to charges being placed on the adult and an intake hearing for the juvenile.

Complainant’s Photo Identifies Waterfowl Violation – On February 9, 2019, CPO Clawson responded to multiple reports from DGIF Dispatch of three individuals shooting at geese while their vessel was underway on Smith Mountain Lake, in Franklin County. The complainant said he observed a male sitting in the passenger seat and another sitting on the bow of the bass boat dressed in full camouflage. The complainant said he observed both males shoot at geese in the water while the vessel was noticeable underway. The complainant sent CPO Clawson a photograph of the male on the bow to the bass boat with a shotgun pressed to his shoulder pointing toward the water. There was a noticeable wake coming off of the bow and white wash coming from the outboard engine. There was also a dead goose lying in the water next to the vessel. CPO Clawson made contact with the individuals and they adamantly denied anything illegal took place. Written statements from multiple complainants were taken and the appropriate charges were placed.

Judge Takes Poaching Seriously – On February 15, 2019, a Henry County judge handed down a significant sentence on a defendant charged with multiple huntng violations.  The judge levied over $2,500 in fines for an incident that occurred on January 7, 2019. CPOs Young and Owens responded to a call from the sheriff’s office regarding a wanted subject with multiple felonies. Upon arrival, the suspect was in custody and a dead spike was lying beside his truck with a 20 gauge shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle in the back seat. After advising the suspect of his Miranda rights, and working through the suspect’s denial, the suspect ultimately admitted to shooting the deer. The suspect provided a statement that he was driving down the road, rolled his window down, shot the deer on private property where he didn’t have permission to hunt and then got out his vehicle to finish it off with his .22. Deer season had ended two days prior to this incident.  Numerous charges were placed.

Region III – Southwest

Boating Safety Event – On Friday, February 1st, CPOs Cody Hash, Joel Early, James Brooks, and Tyler Sheets conducted a boating safety event at Cabela’s in Bristol, Virginia. The event was geared toward boating in cold weather and cold water safety. Officers met with the public and answered questions concerning boating safety, laws and regulations, as well as general information regarding fishing and hunting.

Sportsman’s Wild Game Banquet – On Friday February 1, 2019, CPOs Andy Rutledge and Mark Shaw attended the annual Sportsman’s Wild Game Banquet at Riverview Baptist Church in Giles County. The banquet offered a variety of food including bear, deer, and turkey from outdoorsman throughout the county. There were approximately 500 in attendance and Officer’s Rutledge and Shaw handed out Hunting and Fishing regulation books along with interacting with the community and answering any questions.

Citizen Information to CPO Leads to Arrest – On January 29, 2019 CPO Boyette received a call from a citizen about a subject he had observed dragging a deer out of the woods with an ATV. Officers Boyette and Akers responded to the scene and soon located ATV tracks and blood on a gravel road. They followed the tracks a short distance to two houses. There was blood in the road in front of the houses and ATV tracks leading to both. They spoke with a male subject at one of the houses who stated that he had an ATV and allowed officers to look at it. There was a green strap on the front of the ATV and a small amount of blood on the strap. The man maintained that he had not killed a deer so officers went next door to talk with the other neighbor. At this residence, another male subject told officers that he had a deer that “someone” had given to him. He said at first that he thought the deer had been hit by a car.  He then changed his story and said he was not sure how it had been killed. He then showed officers a skinned deer hanging in his garage that was still steaming and had a large rifle wound. Officers then went back to the first residence, where the first subject admitted that he had killed the deer with a rifle and given it to his neighbor. He also admitted to killing a second deer earlier that season even though he did not have any hunting licenses. Appropriate charges will be placed.

Wildlife and Law Divisions Work Together in Researching and Promoting Elk – During the week of January 28th through February 1st, CPOs James Brooks, Joel Early, and Matthew Arnold assisted DGIF biologists with elk darting and collaring in Buchanan County. Throughout the week, (7) total cow elk were captured to take blood samples, temperatures, ear tagging, and collaring. The data will be used to better monitor and track the elk that were reintroduced to Virginia. This event also allowed two sides of DGIF, Wildlife and Law, to work together in researching and promoting elk. The entire week was a huge success, spanning the entire county and two separate elk herds.

CPOs Honor Retiree – On February 9th, 2019, District 31 CPOs along with Sgt. John Koloda, Major Scott Naff, and Region III Hunter Education Specialist Jeff Pease attended the retirement celebration for Mr. Charlie Stultz, at the Boy Scout of America’s Aquatic Base located on Claytor Lake in Pulaski County.  Charlie was the property superintendent for the scout reservation with over 32 years’ experience.  Senior CPO Troy Phillips nominated Charlie for the O.P.S. Challenge Coin and the district voted to have him as this year’s recipient.  Over 100 people were in attendance from the community including Sheriff Mike Worrell.  Charlie received multiple certificates and awards of appreciation from the Department for his dedication and willingness to partner with DGIF over the years in many different facets.

Successful Conclusion to Illegal Bear Hunting – During the week of February 10-16, 2019, Senior CPO James Brooks brought a successful conclusion to a complaint of an illegal bear hunting incident occurring in Tazewell County during the month of December, 2018. Senior Officer Brooks took a complaint from a landowner on December 13, 2019, of a group of bear hunters trespassing on property in the Tannersville section of Tazewell County. The landowner gave a description of a vehicle and advised Officer Brooks that he observed hunters dragging a bear off the property in question. Officer Brooks began an investigation based off black bear check information for Tazewell County, for the date on which the incident had occurred. During a lengthy investigation leading to the questioning of several bear hunters, Senior Officer Brooks was able to obtain information from a hunter not related to the complaint, which led to the questioning of four bear hunters residing in multiple counties. During the interview process, confessions were obtained related to the trespass complaint and other violations found to have occurred. Appropriate charges have been obtained and served in the incident.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

CPOs Assist in Armed Robbery Investigation – On February 5, 2019, CPOs Eller, Newton, and Hatmaker were patrolling Stafford County.  They heard a report of an armed robbery in the area that they just drove by five minutes prior.  While communicating with the Sheriff’s Office, the officers found an abandoned house just south of where the robbery took place.  Officers maintained their position on the perimeter while Stafford K-9 cleared the abandoned house.  Another K-9 Officer pushed through the woods with one of our officers in an attempt to pick up a track of the suspect.  Eventually the Sheriff’s Office released the officers, but they continued to check the area for the suspect.  While checking an apartment complex in the same area, the officers observed a suspicious vehicle with a damaged taillight.  Officers checked the vehicle and found that it was stolen out of Fairfax County.  Stafford Sheriff’s Deputies and detectives responded to the scene, where the vehicle was processed and turned over to them.  Both incidents are under investigation by the Stafford Sheriff’s Office.

CPO Presents to Elementary Students – On January 31st, Senior CPO Kester provided a display and presentation to the Kindergarteners and Third Graders at North River Elementary School in Augusta County.  The display included 10 fur pelts from different fur bearer animals and three trophy antlers from poached deer.  There were approx. 100 students participating in the event.

Special Ops

K9 Bailey Educates Chesterfield Students – On February 7th and 8th, CPO Patrillo and K9 Bailey were invited to speak with students at the Chesterfield County School Technical Center. Officer Patrillo spoke with the students of the Chesterfield Veterinary Science program and the Homeland Security program about the responsibilities of a Conservation Police Officer and the mission of the agency.  Officer Patrillo fielded questions about law enforcement as well as K9 training and care. K9 Bailey then impressed the crowed with several K9 demos throughout the day. Most of the students were not familiar with DGIF before the presentation, and several contacted officer Patrillo requesting further information about this career field.

  • February 28, 2019