June 28-July 11, 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
PWC Incident with Injury – On Monday, July 3, 2017, CPOs Glenn Cramer and Dan Rabago responded to a personal watercraft (PWC) incident with injury in the area of Nomini Creek in Westmoreland County. The victim was taken to MCV for treatment and Officers Ivan Kopelove and David Hennman responded to conduct interviews. It was determined that the victim was riding when she lost control and her face struck the handle bar area of the PWC. The operator had not taken a boater safety course and her injuries will require reconstructive surgery. Rabago will be following up on the investigation.
Vessel Hit & Run – On June 20th, CPO Kopelove was dispatched to a boating accident with injury at Rocketts Landing on the James River. A dragon boat (a 20 person oar-powered vessel) was struck by a motor boat causing neck and back injuries to the victim. The operator of the vessel allegedly did not stop to render aid to the dragon boat occupants and failed to identify himself. The registration numbers of the striking vessel were recorded by the dragon boat occupants and Officer Kopelove was able to contact the owner of the vessel. The owner provided information on who was most likely using the vessel at the time and Officer Kopelove contacted and arranged to meet him for an interview eight days later. After interviewing the suspect, CPO Kopelove arrested him on an outstanding warrant. At the magistrate’s office additional charges of felony fail to render assistance and provide identifying information after a collision and misdemeanor reckless operation of a motor boat were placed on the suspect.
Illegal Possession of Striped Bass – On Saturday, July 8, 2017, CPOs Amanda Nevel and Dan Rabago were conducting a boat patrol on the Rappahannock River in Richmond County. At 17:10 hours the officers boarded a boat containing four fishermen. During the inspection the officers observed two illegal (closed season) striped bass. They questioned the fishermen if they had more and were told just those two. The officers searched the remaining coolers filled with other legal fish and located six more illegal striped bass. When questioned further, the four fishermen confessed to catching and keeping two striped bass each for a grand total of eight. The subjects also had Washington, DC fishing licenses and no valid Virginia licenses. Each subject was charged with no saltwater fishing license and illegal possession of two striped bass.
Region II – Southside
Severe Back Injury Due to Hitting Wake – On July 1, 2017, Conservation Police Sergeant James Slaughter, CPOs Dallas Neel and Matthew Akers responded to the Virginia Dare Marina on Smith Mountain Lake to assist with a subject experiencing difficulty breathing aboard a boat. When officers arrived, it was discovered that the subject was experiencing difficulty breathing due to a back injury sustained after striking a series of large wakes while on the main channel of the lake near the Smith Mountain Lake Community Park. The subject was transported by EMS to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Fatal Kayaking Incident on Carvins Cove Reservoir – On July 3, 2017, CPO Shannon Smith was notified of a possible emergency situation by staff at Carvins Cove Reservoir in Botetourt County as he pulled into the parking lot to begin his patrol. He quickly discovered that someone had fallen out of their kayak and attempted to swim to shore but was unable to make it out of the water. He was removed from the water by nearby kayakers who began CPR. Unfortunately, resuscitation efforts performed by EMS personnel on scene were unsuccessful. No life jacket was found with or near the victim. Sgt. James Slaughter and Officer Matthew Akers also responded and assisted with the investigation.
Deer Breaks Into School – On July 4, 2017, CPOs Michael Morris and Matthew Akers were called to assist Roanoke County PD with the removal of a deer from Green Valley Elementary School. Roanoke County officers reported that the deer had busted through a window near the entrance of the school and managed to lock itself in a classroom. Officers worked to create a corridor with classroom furniture to help direct the deer out of the school. The deer was safely removed from the school and walked away into a nearby wooded area.
Outreach: Kids Fishing Event – On Friday, June 23, 2017, CPO Tyler Blanks and CPO Toby Livermore made a presentation at – a kids fishing event at Southside Virginia Community College in Charlotte County. The Officers spoke to the youngsters about their roles as Conservation Police Officers and the importance of fish and wildlife conservation. CPO’s had a large patrol boat for display and talked about public safety, boater education requirements and boating safety. Both Officers instructed anglers on how to tie knots, cast, and fish.
Outreach: Health Fair – On Thursday, June 22, 2017, CPO Tyler Sheets and CPO Bruce Young participated in the Annual Franklin County Health Fair. A boating safety exhibit was manned and set up with approximately 200 people attending the day long event. The Officers explained their roles in public safety and their efforts to teach youngsters the importance of learning how to swim and the use of life saving equipment when boating, swimming and enjoying other activities near the water.
Injured Deer Report Leads to Charges – On June 26, 2017, Sergeant James Slaughter and Conservation Police Officer Matthew Akers were notified by dispatch that a Botetourt County Animal Control Officer (ACO) had responded to a call for an injured deer that appeared to have been shot with an arrow. Upon the officers’ arrival, a brief interview of the homeowners/witnesses and the ACO revealed that the deer had been discovered by the homeowners, lying in their back yard. At approximately the same time the homeowners noticed the deer, they also observed a man standing just inside of the woods behind their property, holding a bow. They made verbal contact with the man who stated that he was looking for a deer. When asked if he had shot it, he admitted that he had and then disappeared back into the woods. With this information and a physical description of the subject, officers were able to follow a blood trail that led through the woods and to the front yard of a nearby residence. While the officers were in the front yard of the residence, a male subject, who matched the physical description given by the witnesses, emerged from the house. After a brief conversation with the subject, he admitted to shooting the deer with his bow. He advised that he had become frustrated with it destroying his garden and harassing his dogs. After shooting the deer with his bow, he had attempted to retrieve it and was confronted by the witnesses. He stated that he got scared and returned to his residence. Multiple charges are pending for the individual.
Lifesaving Award Recognition by Local Legislators – On June 30, 2017, CPO Tyler Blanks and CPO Toby Livermore were recognized by State Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Tommy Wright for the heroic actions they displayed on April 10, 2017, when they were on patrol in Mecklenburg County and observed a man struggling in the water near Rudd’s Creek boat landing on Buggs Island Lake. Through their actions, they were able to rescue an 81 year old Mecklenburg residence and fisherman. Lifesaving award plaques were recently presented by Major Scott Naff. State Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Tommy Wright joined in recognizing both officers for their heroic lifesaving efforts.
Operating Under the Influence – On July 1, 2017, CPO Matthew Sandy stopped a boat on Buggs Island Lake in Mecklenburg County at approximately 1800 hours. The 56 year old operator, a man from Manassas, Virginia, showed signs of impairment and indicated that he had consumed the “standard two beers”. Field tests were unsatisfactory and PBT results registered .14 and the man was arrested. He later told the officer that he had consumed alcohol all day while working on his lake house and had decided to go fishing with a guest. He was transported to the regional jail where, two hours later, intoxilizer results registered a BAC of .11.
Safe Firework Displays – Conservation Officers working Smith Mountain Lake from District 21, 22 and 23 worked three reportable and three non-reportable boating incidents over the holiday weekend. There were firework displays every night beginning on Friday, June 30th through Tuesday, July 4th. The annual display at Parkway Marina had thousands in attendance on Sunday, July 2nd. Over 2,000 boats assembled near the marina and viewed the magnificent display. Those assembled along the shoreline, and for miles inland, were able to view the display in the three counties that border the lake. The annual “no wake” initiative continues to bring more boaters to the event, most of those in attendance arrived at idle speed and dispersed at a safe speed.
Region III – Southwest
Charges Made on Illegally Killed Bear – On June 26, 2017, CPOs Dylan Harding and Mark VanDyke, along with District biologist Seth Thompson, responded to a call in Appalachia where the caller advised that he had shot a bear that was being aggressive towards his three year old brother. Upon questioning, the subject said that no one had actually been in immediate danger and he had shot the bear because “it was in the back of his truck eating trash and he was tired of putting up with it.” The subject stated that he had shot the bear once with a .30-06 rifle but had not managed to kill it, so he grabbed his shotgun with #8 target loads and shot it three more times while he followed it through the woods. The subject lead the officers to the last place he had seen the bear, at which point it became apparent the bear was still alive. Officers Harding and VanDyke were able to quickly and humanely finish the bear off and then proceeded to assist biologist Seth Thompson in loading the bear and performing several tests on it. On July 8, 2017 the subject was served with warrants for attempting to take game during closed season and his rifle was seized.
Too Much Alcohol Leads to Arrest on WMA Lands – On July 3, 2017, Conservation Police Officer Cody Hash was patrolling the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Smyth County. He observed a vehicle sitting next to a barrier-free fishing area on Big Tumbling Creek with one occupant inside. As he approached the vehicle, he could hear the radio was playing very loud and noticed the driver adjusting the radio. Upon speaking with him, it was apparent he had been drinking heavily. Officer Hash searched the vehicle and located a key fob for the push to start car. He also saw that the button was set to the “ACC” position. The operator submitted to field sobriety tests and when offered a preliminary breath test, he blew .271 BAC. He was arrested and charged with DUI, refusal and no WMA access permit.
Enhanced Patrol Method Yields Increased Boating Safety Environment – On July 3, 2017, Conservation Police Officers Arnold, Burke, and Early conducted a boat patrol on South Holston Lake in Washington County following the conclusion of Operation Dry Water. An unmarked personal watercraft was utilized as a part of this patrol of which resulted in the detection of numerous violations, including one for reckless operation of a boat by bow riding. In addition to their scheduled patrol, the officers participated in a boating safety checkpoint during which numerous safety inspections were conducted and some violations were detected.
Diversity in Patrol Activity – On July 7, 2017, Conservation Police Officer Matthew Arnold and Sergeant Jamie Davis conducted a boat patrol on South Holston Lake in Washington County. At approximately 2300 hours, they spotted a person fishing from a paddle boat on the water. The boat had no navigation or anchor lights displayed. During the inspection, they realized that the individual had been drinking and was in possession of marijuana and a firearm. The appropriate charges were placed on this individual. During this same patrol, several bank fishermen were also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Other violations included boating safety violations and consuming alcohol on a DGIF boat ramp.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
DUID/Drug Possession on VDGIF Boat Ramp – On Saturday, July 1, 2017, CPO Luke Fisher was patrolling on a VDGIF boat ramp in Rockbridge County. Fisher observed a group of individuals walking to their car after swimming, and he observed a male throw a hat into the woods and left it there. The individuals got into their car and Fisher watched as the driver turned up a beer bottle and finish the contents as he was pulling out of the parking lot. A traffic stop was initiated and prior to the car stopping, the passenger and driver switched locations as the car swerved all over the road. After the stop, Fisher conducted FST’s and determined that the driver was severely impaired and admitted to recent use of methamphetamine. A search warrant for blood sample was later obtained. Suspecting drugs in the vehicle Fisher requested that a Rockbridge Deputy canine unit come to the scene. The canine alerted to drug paraphernalia that was located in the car. The driver was arrested and charged with Reckless Driving, DUID, Driving Revoked, Littering, and Drinking while Operating a Motor Vehicle. The paraphernalia was submitted to the forensics lab and felony drug possession charges are pending.
New Boat Owner Arrested for BUI – On July 8, 2017, Senior CPO Garrett and Officer Hall witnessed a boat with an expired registration sticker, exiting the “no wake zone”, at Tim’s Restaurant, on Lake Anna. Officers conducted a stop of the vessel and owner/operator, and determined that the owner had just purchased the vessel, and had a temporary registration. During their contact with the operator, the officers detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, glassy eyes, slurred speech, and numerous empty beer bottles and cans on the floor of the vessel. The officers conducted Field Sobriety Tests, and subsequently arrested the operator for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol. While at the magistrate, the officers were made aware that the operator had previously been charged, and convicted, of Driving Under the Influence.