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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

April 1-28, 2020

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 Nabs Suspect Trapping Illegally – In early March, CPO Terry Jordan responded to a complaint of deer carcasses being dumped on a farm in James City County. During this investigation, he also noticed that foothold traps were being set illegally using dead squirrels and fish for bait.  After speaking to the caretaker of the property, Jordan began an investigation to determine who was trapping. Throughout the month of March, Jordan found various animals in the traps, to include, foxes and a live buzzard.  Jordan determined the identity of a suspect based on his investigation and along with CPO Howlett conducted a suspect interview.  The suspect admitted to setting the traps without permission of the landowner, failing to check his traps daily, illegally baiting the traps, failing to have a trapping license, trapping during a closed season and failing to tag his traps as required by law.  Appropriate charges were placed against the subject.

Officers Respond to Boat Fire at Night – On April 8, 2020, Virginia CPOs Daniel Rabago, and Joshua Thomas, received a call just after midnight regarding a boat that had caught fire in the Mattaponi River, near West Point. Upon arriving on scene, the officers launched a large patrol boat and located the stranded boaters, including several children, near the route 33 bridge. After ensuring there were no injuries and the boat was not taking on water, the officers towed the subjects back to shore since a tow boat was not available. It was determined that the outboard had an electrical fire and the operator was able to quickly get to his fire extinguisher and put the fire out. The investigation is still pending as the cause of the electrical fire has not been determined.

Out of Season Turkey Hunters Caught Hunting Over Bait – On April 10, 2020, Virginia CPO Wakefield received a call regarding possible out of season hunting in Suffolk.  He responded and began searching the area.  Officer Wiedel responded a short time later.  The officers searched the area and discovered a ground blind, two chairs, turkey decoys, and other hunting equipment.  The officers also discovered a corn feeder approximately 30 yards away.  However, no hunters were found.  The officers then decided to set up surveillance on the area.  Eventually, two subjects wearing camouflage emerged from a wooded area near the blind.  The officers then confronted the subjects, who stated they had been walking through a swamp.  When asked if they been turkey hunting, the subjects stated they had not been hunting, but they did admit to setting up decoys and the ground blind. They also admitted to calling turkeys while in possession of a loaded shotgun. One subject also admitted to placing corn in the feeder.  Charges will be placed for the above offenses.

Three Turkey Hunters Caught Hunting over Bait in New Kent – On April 11, 2020, Virginia CPO Zach Howlett was working a baited site in New Kent County that he had found several weeks prior. Howlett set up on the baited site well before legal shooting hours on opening morning.  At 6 am, two hunters entered the ground blind that overlooked the baited area. Howlett observed both hunters for a period of time before contacting them.  Both hunters stating that they were surprised to be checked in the middle of the woods.  Howlett was also surprised that neither hunter was the suspect that he was expecting that morning. After questioning the two hunters, Howlett learned that his primary suspect was hunting another ground blind on a piece of hunt club property just down the road.  After obtaining statements and issuing summonses to the first two hunters, CPO Howlett made his way to the other piece of property that the primary suspect was thought to be hunting.

The primary suspect’s blind was located roughly a mile back in the woods, however by the time Howlett reached the location, he was already back at his truck. Howlett asked the hunter if he would show him where the ground blind was that he was hunting that morning. Once at the location of the ground blind, Howlett was able to locate a trail camera overlooking a small area approximately 15 yards from the ground blind in which the ground and leaves had been disturbed. Upon inspection of that area, cracked corn was found in large amounts. During questioning of the hunter, he initially denied placing the bait out at either site. When presented with the facts and further questioning, the hunter’s story quickly fell apart and he ultimately admitted to placing bait at both sites. All three hunters were issued summonses for hunting over a baited area.

Region II – Southside

Illegal Fish Traps Located – On March 20, 2020, CPO Tyler Routon discovered illegal sized fish traps on Maggodee Creek in Franklin County.  Officer Routon conducted camera surveillance on the location and developed two suspects.  He interviewed the suspects and obtained confessions to placing the illegal traps to catch bait for catfishing tournaments.  The appropriate charges were placed.

Community Policing Effort Reduces Unlawful ATV Activity – On Saturday March 28, 2020, CPO Cory Harbour responded to a complaint regarding a large group of ATVs that were trespassing on posted property in Campbell County.  Upon arrival, Officer Harbour located recent sign of ATV activity.  He canvased the area by speaking with residents, and offering solutions to help solve the issue.  By doing so, he was able to gain valuable assistance and knowledge of the problem and information that would aid in their capture.  The property where the ATVs were trespassing was an entry point to access hundreds of acres of vacant land.  Officer Harbour used this as his advantage.  Through his diligence, Officer Harbour was able to apprehend 10 ATVs and 14 total persons.  Violations that he observed were, operating ATV without landowner consent (trespass); operating ATV on the highway; operating ATV without a helmet; and operating ATV with a passenger.  Officer Harbour also educated the group of the Executive Order in place by the Governor regarding social distancing and gathering in groups larger than 10 people.  The appropriate charges were placed along with a multitude of warnings.

Wanted Subject Discovered Trout Fishing – On March 28, 2020, CPO Bruce Young was inspecting trout anglers along the Smith River in Henry County when he encountered an individual fishing without the appropriate licenses.  Upon running the subject’s information, he discovered that the individual had an active felony warrant out of Franklin County.  The appropriate charges for fishing violations were placed and then the subject was taken into custody and turned over to the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for transport.

Attempt to Take Out of Season, from a Minivan – On Saturday, April 4, 2020, Conservation Police Officer Shane Wilson received a call from a hunter in Brunswick County.  The caller stated that while he was hunting with a youth hunter, a minivan came down the road at a slow speed, spotted his decoy spread in the field, stopped in the roadway and two individuals got out.  One of the individuals was holding a firearm.  The individual walked down the roadway and started to shoot one of the decoys.  The hunter yelled at the individual telling him he was about to shoot his decoy.  The two individuals ran back to the van and took off down the road.  The hunter retrieved his decoys, and notified Officer Wilson of the suspects address.  Officer Wilson contacted them and received full confessions from three subjects.  Appropriate charges were placed.

Region III – Southwest

CPO Assists in Search and Rescue – On March 30, 2020 just after midnight, CPO Tyler Sheets was requested to assist the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office with a search and rescue in the Thomas Bridge Community of Smyth County. A citizen had reported seeing a female individual floating in the South Fork of the Holston River just before midnight. First responders from multiple agencies searched the area for several hours. The individual was located just before daylight in good health.

Hunting Incident in Giles County – On April 11, 2020, CPOs Wirt, Wensel, Shaw, Shupe, Billings and Sgt. Koloda responded to a hunting incident in Giles County, near the West Virginia line.  The victim was shot in the face with #5 shot by another turkey hunter at a distance of 30 yards.  The injured party was transported to a local hospital and then flown to Charleston WV hospital by helicopter.  Officers were assisted by the WV state police and WV DNR officers by securing the scene and holding the shooter until VA CPO’s arrived.  K932 Billings and his new dog Molly, successfully located the accident scene in the woods over 2 miles from the staging area and were able to locate items at the scene.  The shooter was a 67 year old hunter, who did not clearly identify his target and was later charged with reckless handling of a firearm by CPO Wirt.

New River Search Turns Up One of Two Suspects – On April 15, 2020, CPO Jim Anders and K9 Officer Wes Billings assisted the Virginia State Police with searching the New River after two subjects fled from a vehicle after a pursuit in Wythe County. One of the subjects returned to the shore and was arrested and the other was missing. Officer Anders transported tactical team members to search an island in the middle of the river and Officer Billings assisted with his K9 by searching the river banks. It was determined that the subject had made it across the river and was unable to be located. Virginia State Police continue their investigation into the incident.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Illegal Possession of Wildlife Leads to Foxes Being Tested for Rabies – VDGIF received information that a family in Frederick County had fox kits in their possession. This information was given to Conservation Police Officer Mike Corrrado and he quickly went to work. He received information that the fox kits were taken from their den.  The suspects had the fox kits for a few days and they were actively handling the wildlife. CPO Corrado contacted District Wildlife Biologist Fred Frenzel, and they developed an operational plan to confiscate the fox kits. On March 24th CPO’s Corrado and Derrick Kekic and District Biologist Frenzel arrived at the residence. The subjects turned over the kits to VDGIF personnel, and the fox kits were transported to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.  Due to human exposure, the Virginia Department of Health tested the foxes for rabies.  The suspect was charged with illegal possession of wildlife.

A Positive Ending for Victims of Boat Incident – On Apr. 5, 2020, CPO Heberling responded to a report of a boat incident on the James River in Fluvanna Co. A canoe had flipped in rapids and the occupants were stuck on an island. Fluvanna Co. Fire and rescue and Scottsville Fire Dept. responded and were able to locate the individuals and rescue them off the island. The two individuals were uninjured but, unfortunately, the canoe and all their belongings had been lost in the rapids and swept downstream. CPO Heberling began a boat incident investigation due to the loss of the vessel. On 04/06/2020, CPO Heberling received a call from a firefighter that he had spotted a canoe in the James River near the Rt. 15 Bridge. The description matched the description given by the canoe owner. Wanting to reunite the owner with his canoe, CPO Chaffin and CPO Heberling retrieved the vessel from the river and were able to return it to a very happy owner a couple of days later.

CPOs Locate Baited Blind – On Thursday, April 9, 2020, CPO Sgt. Rich Goszka and Master Officer Ray Solomon located a blind baited with cracked corn in a remote mountain area of Loudoun County. On Saturday, April 11, 2020, Sgt. Rich Goszka and Officer Steve Hicks setup on the baited blind and waited for the suspect to arrive. Just after sunrise a suspect entered the blind and began to call turkeys. The suspect was contacted and confessed to baiting the area for the purpose of killing turkeys. The interview also resulted in a violation of the deer feeding ban and the killing of several deer over bait. The suspect confessed to baiting deer and turkeys for several years. He also stated he had a premonition that he would get caught by Game Wardens. Multiple charges are pending.

Turkey Hunting Trespassers – On Saturday, April 25, 2020, CPO Sgt. Rich Goszka responded to assist a Loudoun County Sheriff’s Deputy with a turkey hunting trespass call along the Potomac River. The facts revealed that a father and his juvenile son shot at a turkey from a boat in the Potomac River from Maryland into Virginia. This was witnessed by a turkey hunter legally on the Virginia private property. The suspects both Maryland residents, were held until law enforcement could arrive. The father confessed to positioning his boat so his son could shoot at a turkey on the Virginia shore. Charges for the father are pending for license and trespassing violations.

Trespassers Hunting on Church Property – On Monday, April 13, 2020, CPO Eric Plaster responded to a turkey trespassing call for service in Prince William County. The call was in reference to hunters parked on church property and hunting the area. Plaster located the suspect vehicle and conducted a stop. The two suspects, one a juvenile with a previous record of hunting violations to include trespassing, denied hunting the area, but they did place themselves at the location in question. During a follow up investigation with the assistance of Senior Officer Mark Sanitra it was determined a witness did observe the juvenile shoot at a turkey. Both suspects were observed with shotguns and this was at 1:30PM after legal hunting hours. The landowner did not give them permission to hunt his property. Charges are pending for hunting turkeys during the closed season, trespassing and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Special Operations

CPO Cramer and K9 Partner Waylon Search for Stolen Firearm – On March 26, 2020, Officer Cramer was requested by Woodstock PD to attempt to locate a firearm that was stolen from a vehicle. Officer Cramer responded and checked the area the officer thought the fire arm might be located. The firearm was not located but Waylon located two shell casings where it was believed that the subjects where shooting the firearm.

CPO Cramer and K9 Partner Waylon Assist Locating Shell Casings – At approximately 2230 hours on March 30, 2020, CPO Cramer was requested by Orange County Sheriff’s Office to attempt to locate shell casings from a dispute between two neighbors. Officer Cramer was advised that the subjects got into a verbal altercation and the one resident fired a shot into the air. Then shortly after witness said they heard four or five more shots. Upon arrival the deputies located what they believed to be the single shot in the driveway of the residence. Waylon was deployed and worked the area surrounding the residence. Waylon alerted and located 4, 9mm shell casings in tall grass in close proximity to the back door. The subjects who witnessed the stated fired the shot, denied ever shooting a firearm. The subject was taken into custody by Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

  • April 30, 2020