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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

August 16-29, 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

Boating Safety Checkpoint – On August 13, 2017, district 16 Conservation Police Officers Thomas, Bumgarner, Dobyns and Morris, along with Virginia Marine Police Officers Cagle, Reichle and Freeman, conducted a boating safety checkpoint in the Mobjack Bay. After numerous complaints and BUI arrests at previous operations, the checkpoint was set up to ensure compliance and make the area around New Point a safer place for all. Unlike the previous checkpoint all 21 boats inspected had a designated sober operator or no alcohol on board at all. Several citizens thanked the officers for their presence and noted that it had been a much more enjoyable place since the last operation.

Reckless Driver Almost Hits CPO – On August 14, 2017, CPOs Thomas and Morris were conducting a boat ramp patrol in Gloucester. While in route to one of the ramps CPO Thomas had to drive off of the roadway to avoid being struck by a vehicle that rounded a corner at a high rate of speed in the wrong lane. The CPO’s conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and found the operator to be suspended. The driver was charged with Reckless driving and driving while suspended. The driver had 3 previous driving while suspended convictions and was in a borrowed vehicle.

Colonial Beach Boat Patrol Nets BUI – On Monday, August 21, 2017, CPOs Glenn Cramer and Amanda Nevel conducted an evening boat patrol in the Colonial Beach area of Westmoreland County. At approximately 1600 hours the officers observed a boater working crab pots and they made contact with him. Upon further conversation with the operator they suspected he was under the influence of alcohol. Field sobriety tests confirmed their suspicions and the operator was offered a PBT which resulted in a .108 BAC. The operator was arrested for BUI and transported to the Colonial Beach PD where he registered a final BAC on .08. He was charged with Boating under the influence of alcohol by Officer Nevel.

Back to School Awareness Program – On Saturday, August 26th, CPO Rabago participated in Westmoreland County’s Back to School Awareness program, sponsored by the NAACP and Westmoreland County School board. Several community agencies attended in hopes of encouraging young people to take an active interest in their education. Officer Rabago spoke to approximately 200 attendees about the importance of getting outside, and that learning doesn’t have to stop with the classroom. This resulted in numerous questions about recreational activities in the area, and about upcoming Hunters Education courses.

Region II – Southside

Public Assistance Aids in Serious Boating Incident – On Saturday, August 19, 2017, District 21 and 22 Conservation Police Officer’s investigated a tragic boating incident on Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County.  A family get-to-gather resulted in injuries to a 15 year old Burlington , North Carolina girl and  a 12 year old Roanoke, Virginia  boy.  The youngsters were being towed on an inflatable raft by a family member on a PWC.  The raft collided with a dock and with a boat in a lift.  The young girl was air-lifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and the young boy transported to Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital.   A Medical Doctor across the cove witnessed the collision and immediately jumped on a PWC and responded to the scene, called 911 and assisted with the injured youngsters.  A physical education teacher from Pittsylvania County, was on a dock nearby, with several other young ladies celebrating a “bachelorette outing”, heard the collision and also ran to the scene, entered the water and administered emergency first aid.  The heroic efforts of the physician, the teacher and her friends certainly helped the youngsters survive a potential life-threatening event.   The 15 year old girl is still hospitalized and the 12 year old boy was treated and released.  Charges are pending further investigation.

Armed and Dangerous Manhunt – On Friday, August 4, 2017, several District 22 Conservation Police Officers responded to a call for assistance from the Virginia State Police in Botetourt County to search for a former U.S. Special Forces Marine.  He had just run into a large wooded area based on the fact that he was wanted in Colorado for a felony assault that left a woman in a coma.  Over a span of several days, the suspect had stolen multiple vehicles, been involved in multiple police pursuits within multiple states until his vehicle developed a mechanical problem resulting in it becoming disabled.  The suspect utilized his survival training to navigate through the woods for a total of three days until he was able to steal another vehicle and exit the area.  This was confirmed on surveillance footage at a local service station.

Update:  This suspect, who had eluded police in three states and was involved in a three day manhunt, was taken into custody without incident by the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office.

Region III – Southwest

Hunting Investigation Spans State – On August 18, 2017, CPO Adam Keene completed a lengthy hunting investigation that resulted in twenty four charges that spanned the state from Wythe County to Surry County.  This investigation begin when Officer Keene noticed a discrepancy at a check station in Wythe County that revealed that an individual had failed to check a deer as required and that the check station had checked the deer for the subject without seeing the deer and had back dated the check book.  The suspect was interviewed and admitted to numerous game violations in Wythe, Tazewell and Surry County.  While he was from Wythe County, he was attending college on the east coast and hunted in Surry County while attending these classes.  He had killed ten deer in total in Virginia, five of which were bucks and five were spotlighted.  He had also spotlighted and killed deer in Surry County with two of his friends who traveled out from Wythe County.  Officer Keene interviewed those individuals and received full confessions to spotlighting and killing deer in Wythe County and Surry County during the closed season and while using an unlawful caliber.   Officer Keene seized a total of four buck heads, four firearms and a variety of digital evidence from the subject’s cell phones.  He also identified and interviewed a witness who provided a signed statement that was present when all three individuals spotlighted and killed four deer in one night in Surry County.

Narcotics Use Never Pays – On August 16, 2017, CPO Adam Keene received information about a distraught individual around Raven’s Cliff National Forest Campground in Wythe County.  The individual claimed he was looking for two females that had been lost in the woods the whole day.  Officer Keene contacted the local National Forest Law Enforcement Officer but he was unable to respond.  Officer Keene responded and located the male along with two females at a camp site.  The male told the officer that he had finally found the females who had gotten lost hiking on trails in the area.  Officer Keene identified the individuals and noticed they had not paid for their camp site.  The officer quickly recognized behavior that was indicative of drug use and received consent to search. The Wythe County Sheriff’s Office responded and assisted.  Officer Keene discovered a bag of methamphetamine in the console of the vehicle and paraphernalia in the male’s pants that were lying on the hood.  One of the female’s produced a meth pipe from her bra and admitted to using the meth while they were hiking.  The other female admitted to using marijuana but had already consumed it all.  Officer Keene arrested the male and female for felony possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance (meth).

Raccoon Hunting with Bait – On July 17, 2017, CPO Matthew Arnold responded to a call in Buchanan County concerning hunters baiting raccoons.  Upon investigation, Arnold discovered two buckets, one of which was filled with dog food that had an opening at the bottom to allow a small animal to reach into the bucket and remove the food.  CPO Arnold interviewed a nearby resident about the property, who admitted to placing the feeders out and hunting over the bait. The appropriate charges were recently placed.

Early Deer Hunters Nabbed – On August 16, 2017, CPO Mark VanDyke was contacted by a Wise County resident who was concerned that a subject in his neighborhood had shot a deer near the end of July.  The two subjects knocked on his door and spoke with his daughter-in-law and asked if they could drag the deer across their property.  The complainant was not home at the time.  Subsequently following a week long investigation, the subjects were identified, the firearm was seized and the appropriate charges were placed.

 Observation Leads to Enhancing Public Safety – On August 19, 2017, CPO Joe Early and Sergeant Jamie Davis were on patrol at South Holston Lake in Washington County. The officers observed a subject operating a pontoon on plane, talking on a cell phone, with a passenger sitting beyond the front gate with their legs hanging off the boat between the two pontoons.  The operator was stopped and charged for reckless operation of a motor boat.

Fishing and Marijuana Don’t Mix – On August 20, 2017, Senior CPOs James Brooks and George Shupe observed a vehicle parked beside the Clinch River in Tazewell County.  Officer Brooks approached the operator’s side of the vehicle and made contact with the operator.  Officer Brooks was able to determine the operator had been fishing.  Brooks checked the subject’s fishing license and noticed a plastic bag on the floor board of the vehicle that contained dried green plant material.  Officer Brooks gained consent to search the vehicle and recovered the plastic bag.  Field test was conducted and tested positive for marijuana. The suspect was charged appropriately.

Narcotics Users Identified – On August 26, 2017, Senior CPO James Brooks and CPO Cody Hash were conducting a boat patrol on South Holston Lake in Washington County.  The officers located a campsite and began conducting surveillance on two adults on an inflatable air mattress.  They were both fishing and had a paddle and anchor onboard.  As the subjects approached the officer’s location the female produced a glass smoking device, used it and passed it to the male subject who in turn used it as well.  After the subjects were contacted, both admitted to smoking methamphetamine and not having a fishing license.  Both subjects were arrested and charged appropriately.

Concerned Citizen Helps Catch Illegally Killed Deer by Spotlighter – On August 26, 2017, Senior CPO George Shupe and CPO Matthew Arnold responded to a call in Russell County concerning a deer killed alongside the roadway the previous night.  The caller had identified a black Geo Tracker with farm use tags as the suspect.  When approaching the scene, the CPOs noticed the same vehicle matching the description at a nearby house.  After making contact with the owner of the house, it was discovered the owner’s cousin owned the vehicle.  The CPOs interviewed the owner of the Tracker, who soon admitted to shooting the deer around 1 am by spotlighting the deer with the vehicles headlights, and also using a .17 caliber rifle. The appropriate charges were placed.

Good Deed Observed By CPO – On August 26, 2017, CPO Corey Gardner began an early morning boat patrol on Keokee Lake in Lee County.  After checking bank fisherman and several boats, he observed two people on the bank from walking through the woods carrying bags.  Officer Gardner caught up with the two individuals at a popular clearing, but was surprised to find that the two gentlemen were actually picking up trash along the banks and in the woods near the lake.   Upon speaking with them, Officer Gardner learned that they were part of a Boy Scout Troop.  Some of the Scouts were walking the trail around the lake and some were in canoes cleaning up trash in the lake.  After thanking the Scouts and their leaders for the work they were doing, he spoke to the boys about conservation and answered several questions about being a Conservation Police Officer.  Officer Gardner then assisted the boys in transporting multiple bags of trash and old tires back to the boat ramp to be hauled away.  Thank you Boy Scout Troop 602 and all of the volunteers for the work you do.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

You Can Drink, But You Cannot Hide – On Aug. 5, 2017, Senior CPO Tim Dooley, CPO Jacob Chaffin, and Sergeant Steve Ferguson conducted a special operation on the James River near Watkins Landing in Powhatan County.  Previous reports identified an area of interest where individuals were reportedly openly consuming alcohol while boating and creating general disorder on the waterway.  The officers conducted covert surveillance in the area for several hours and identified numerous individuals consuming alcohol.  One individual in particular was observed drinking at least six beers and consuming wine while his boat was moored.  Later, that same individual boarded his vessel along with several others, got into the operator’s position, and began operating the vessel up river.  The officers caught up with the boat at Watkins Landing but found the suspect was no longer in the operator’s position.  Initially, the suspect denied having operated the boat, but when confronted with the officer’s observations, he conceded.  The suspect was asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests.  Prior to performing the tests the suspect stated “I know I am going to fail.”  The suspect performed unsatisfactorily on all field sobriety tests.  The suspect was offered a preliminary breath test and the result was 0.162.  The suspect was placed under arrest for OUI and transported to the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office where he submitted to a breath analysis with the final result being 0.13.

Canoe “Surfer” Charged – During the special operation noted above, CPO Chaffin and Sergeant Ferguson observed a man operating a canoe with a 3.5 HP engine on the river. Instead of sitting in the back with his hand on the engine controls, the man was standing up in the middle of the canoe, surfer style, while the boat was on plane. He was alone in the canoe, so there was no one in control of the boat while it was running, and the kill switch lanyard was not attached to anything. He hit several wakes from passing boats and almost fell into the water several times before the officers could get to him to stop him. Once they had him stopped, the officers noticed several empty beer cans and another open can near the operator’s feet. Officer Chaffin had the operator perform several field sobriety tests. The operator passed those tests, but a preliminary breath test indicated his blood alcohol content to be 0.105. The officers transported the operator and towed his canoe to a nearby area where his friends could take control of the boat. The operator was charged with reckless operation of a motorboat.

  • September 8, 2017