July 3 – 23, 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
Fishermen Charged with Several Violations – On July 5, 2019, CPO Bratton, Sergeant Garvis, and USFWS Refuge Officer Darin Dick were checking fishermen at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. The officers were talking to a group of fishermen when they noticed a plastic grocery bag tied up and placed separately behind the cooler on their boat. The bag appeared to have flounder in it. Sgt. Garvis retrieved the bag and verified that it did indeed have several undersized flounder in it. CPO Bratton and Officer Dick retrieved the cooler from the boat and found 3 sandbar sharks at the bottom buried beneath the ice in the cooler. (It is unlawful to possess sandbar sharks in Virginia waters) Meanwhile, Sgt. Garvis recovered 22 flounder and 1 grey trout from the plastic bag. All of the fish were undersized and they were in possession of almost twice the daily limit of flounder. Further investigation by CPO Bratton and Officer Dick revealed that all 3 of the fishermen caught the flounder and put them in the cooler. None of the 3 fisherman had a valid saltwater fishing license. All of the fishermen were charged with possession of undersize and over-limit flounder, as well as possession of closed species of shark and fishing without a license.
Underage Boat Operator Charged with BUI – On July 6, 2019, during Operation Dry Water, while on boat patrol in Cockrells Creek, which is located in Northumberland County, CPOs Nevel and Senior Officer Bumgarner observed a boat underway at 10:40 pm with no visible navigation lights. As they approached the vessel they observed the operator place an object on the right gunwale of the vessel out of view. The officers activated their emergency equipment and conducted a stop on the vessel. Once stopped, the officers observed the object to be a beer can, which the underage operator admitted to having consumed two. A safety inspection was conducted and the officers determined that the vessel was short several Personal Flotation Devices, was displaying an expired registration decal and did not have a visible stern light. During the stop the operator showed signs of alcohol impairment. Field sobriety tests were administered on the operator and subsequently, the operator was placed under arrest by Officer Nevel for BUI and transported to the Northumberland Sheriff’s Office. A breath test was administered and the operator provided a BAC of 0.10.
Subject Charged with BUI at Safety Check – On July 5, 2019, during Operation Dry Water, CPO Sergeant Spuchesi and Senior Officer Bumgarner were conducting a boating safety check point in Monroe Creek, which is located in Westmoreland County. At 8:55 pm a vessel entered the check point not displaying any navigation lights after sunset. Upon stopping the vessel, an odor of alcohol was detected on the operator of the vessel. The vessel was also not displaying a current registration sticker. Field sobriety tests were conducted on the operator and subsequently, the operator was placed under arrest by Officer Bumgarner for boating under the influence. The subject was transported to the Colonial Beach Police Department where he refused to provide a breath sample. The subject was charged with boating under the influence, failing to display navigation lights after sunset, improper display of registration, and refusal to provide breath sample.
BUI on Chickahominy River – On July 6, 2019, during Operation Dry Water, CPOs Adams, Joyce and Jordan conducted a boater safety checkpoint at Chickahominy Riverfront Boat Ramp, in James City County. At approximately 7:15 pm, Officer Joyce observed a white Baja boat enter the ramp area and tie off. Officer Jordan made contact with the operator whose speech was slurred and eyes were glassy. The operator stated that he had two drinks and the last one was approximately 30 minutes ago. Officer Jordan conducted the NASBLA standardized field sobriety tests in which numerous clues were observed indicating the operator was intoxicated. The operator provided a breath sample into the PBT with a result of .21. The operator was placed under arrest for BUI and transported to Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. Upon arrival at the jail, the operator provided a breath sample with a result of 0.19. Appropriate charges were placed.
On July 10, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officers assisted the Tri-County Drug Task Force and the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office with the execution of a search warrant on a suspected Methamphetamine Lab. CPO’s provided waterborne security and transportation for tactical team members executing the search warrant. This operation resulted in the arrest of three individuals for the manufacture and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Providing mutual aid to local agencies and providing for enhanced public safety is paramount to the third pillar of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries mission of Conserve, Connect and Protect.
Region II – Southside
Touch a Truck – On June 15, 2019, CPOs Clawson and Routon took part in a Touch a Truck event in Franklin County. The event included the surrounding Law Enforcement Agencies, Fire and Rescue, and many other companies in the area. A few hundred kids and their parents attended the event and it was a huge success.
Boat Crash Results in BUI Arrest – On June 22, 2019, at approximately 11:30PM, CPO Brett Clawson was on his way back to his residence when he received a report of a boat accident on Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County. Officer Clawson arrived on location and observed a vessel positioned in the back yard of a local residence. The operator was standing by and said he was traveling approximately 20 mph and did not know where the land was until he hit it. There were five people on board the vessel and fortunately no one was hurt. Officer Clawson put the operator through field sobriety tests and as a result believed he was under the influence of alcohol. Clawson arrested him for operating a Motorboat While Under the Influence of Alcohol. While Officer Clawson was processing the operator, CPO Michael Morris and Sergeant James Slaughter interviewed the witnesses and collected the required information for the incident report.
BUI on SML – On June 22, 2019, CPOs Michael Morris and Brett Clawson were on patrol on Smith Mountain Lake when they observed a pontoon boat displaying no navigation lights operating after sunset. They conducted a stop and began inspecting the safety equipment. Both officers could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the operator. He admitted to drinking approximately 8-10 beers throughout the evening. Officer Morris administered field sobriety tests and determined that he was too intoxicated to operate a boat. Officer Morris placed the operator under arrest for BUI.
Self-Initiated Boat Patrol Leads to Two BUIs – On June 28, 2019, CPOs Tyler Blanks, Keith Wilson, and Shane Wilson conducted a self-initiated boat patrol on Lake Gaston looking for alcohol and boaters operating under the influence of alcohol. At approximately 11:40 PM, they stopped a vessel on Poplar Creek that was operating without navigation lights displayed. CPO Blanks contacted the operator to address the violation and noticed his eyes were glassy and there was an odor of alcohol about his person. CPO Blanks conducted field sobriety test and offered a preliminary breath test. The operator was arrested and transported to the Meherrin River Regional Jail. His blood alcohol content (BAC) .11. The individual was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and operating without navigation lights.
Officers Keith Wilson and Shane Wilson continued the boat patrol after Officer Blanks left. At approximately midnight, they stopped a vessel on Poplar Creek for operating with the vessel’s docking lights illuminated. CPO Keith Wilson made contact with the operator and the seven additional passengers that were on the vessel. Immediately upon the stop, the smell of alcohol was overwhelming. The vessel contained beer cans both empty and full. CPO Keith Wilson conducted field sobriety test and offered a preliminary breath test to the underage operator. The operator was placed under arrest. Once the operator was arrested, Officer Shane Wilson determined that all of the other seven passengers were under the age of 21 and they all had been drinking. Officer S. Wilson made the appropriate charges on them.
Once at the Meherrin River Regional Jail, the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the operator was .13. The subject was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, underage possession of alcohol, invalid registration and operating a vessel with docking lights illuminated.
Martinsville Annual Fishing Rodeo – On June 22, 2019, CPO Bruce Young participated in the Martinsville Kids Fishing Rodeo Day at Hunt Country Farms sponsored by the ELKs Lodge #1752. Approximately 50 Children attended the event, and each had success in catching fish. The program provided these children an opportunity to get involved with the great outdoors. Awards and fishing rods were given to the children at the conclusion of the event.
PWC Accident on SML – On June 26, 2019, CPOs Eric Dotterer and Tyler Routon responded to the scene of a Jet Ski incident in the area of Channel marker R14 on Smith Mountain Lake. A 21-year-old male had struck a fixed object in the water and was ejected off the PWC. The operator suffered serious injuries and was transported by Life Flight to Carilion Memorial Hospital. The incident is still under investigation.
DUI – On June 28, 2019, at approximately 11:09 PM, CPO Brett Clawson was on his way home from a boat shift when he observed a SUV swerving in the east bound lane on Route 122 within Bedford County. Officer Clawson initiated a traffic stop and could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle. He noticed the driver had slurred speech and blood shot watery eyes. Clawson administered field sobriety tests and determined the operator was intoxicated. Officer Clawson arrested the driver and transported him to the Bedford County Magistrate’s Office, where he obtained the appropriate charges.
Officers Provide Assistance to Citizen – On the morning of June 29, 2019, CPOs Matthew Sandy and Shane Wilson were patrolling Buggs Island Lake. They noticed a group of people in a swimming beach gathered in an unusual fashion and as they approached, some of the people started to gesture for them to come over. The officers beached their patrol boat to assess the situation. They found a man that had been pulled from the water after a near drowning. Local EMS was requested to respond to the scene. The officers assessed the victim and found that he was having labored breathing, not very responsive and lying flat on his back. Since the victim was getting some air the officers quickly placed him in a recovery position. CPO Wilson stayed with the victim to monitor him and keep him awake. CPO Sandy cleared an area for the ambulance to get access to the victim. By the time EMS arrived the victim had started coughing and throwing up water. He was able to speak much clearer and was more responsive. The two officers, along with some of the victim’s family members, carried the stretcher across the beach to the ambulance. As the officers were pulling away from the beach, several members of the victims group expressed their gratitude and thanks for the officer’s help.
Inspection Reveals Boat Number Violation – On July 1, 2019, CPO Matthew Sandy was assigned to complete a vessel inspection in Mecklenburg County. While inspecting, for a possible registration display violation, he was able to find previous registration numbers on the hull. He found that these numbers did not match the Hull Identification Number assigned to the vessel. After interviewing the vessel owner, he determined that the mechanic was responsible for switching the identification numbers. Officer Sandy made contact with the mechanic and obtained a confession. Since the mechanic shop was in North Carolina, and the fact that the violation occurred in North Carolina, Officer Sandy notified North Carolina Wildlife Officers and gave them the information for possible prosecution.
District 25 Boating Safety Checkpoints on John Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island) and Lake Gaston – In efforts to identify and remove boat operators who were under the influence of alcohol, Sgt. Jessica Whirley, Officers Brandon Harris, Tyler Blanks, Shane Wilson, Nick Belotte, Matt Sandy, Keith Wilson and Kevin Webb conducted two boating safety checking details during the Fourth of July weekend on Buggs Island and Lake Gaston. These boating safety operations resulted in: 28 boats being inspected; 7 arrests for boating violations; 16 warnings given; 22 tests for alcohol consumption; and 14 vessels with alcohol onboard. Officers were able to address the following boating law violations: reckless operation, improper navigation lights, safety equipment, underage possession of alcohol, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and operating under the influence of alcohol. During one checkpoint, CPO Keith Wilson contacted the operator of a vessel and noticed his eyes were glassy and there was an odor of alcohol about him. CPO K. Wilson conducted field sobriety tests. As a result, he arrested the operator and transported him to the Meherrin River Regional Jail where his blood alcohol content was registered as a BAC of .10. The subject was charged with Operating Under the Influence of alcohol and operating without navigation lights.
Drugs on James River WMA – On Sunday afternoon July 14, 2019, CPO Andrew Howald and Sgt. Sonny Nipper were patrolling the James River Wildlife Management Area boat ramp in Nelson County. During this activity, they encountered a man walking a path back to the ramp parking area carrying only a fishing rod. Officer Howald made contact with him and he said he had been fishing but had lost his lure. To the officers, it seemed suspicious that he had no tackle or other bait with him. Howald went to the man’s vehicle with him to retrieve his fishing license. When he opened the vehicle door Officer Howald detected the odor of marijuana and observed ammunition and a grinder in the seat, which the now suspect covered with a towel. Officer Howald asked about the ammunition and if there were any guns in the vehicle and the man stated no but was strangely nervous. He claimed there was nothing at all in the vehicle and agreed to allow officers to look in it. Officer Howald discovered a baggie tied up with white powder in it that appeared to be either cocaine or methamphetamine, and a baseball size clump of marijuana, in an open bag, along with the grinder that had marijuana in it. The suspect was placed under arrest for felony possession of a Schedule 1 or 2 drug and possession of marijuana. Additional charges are pending.
Operating Under the Influence (OUI) Enforcement – On July 13, 2019, CPOs Matt Sandy and Tyler Blanks were on boat patrol in the Poplar Creek area of Lake Gaston. At approximately 7:45 PM, they stopped a personal watercraft (PWC) on Poplar Creek that was operating without a lanyard attached. CPO Sandy contacted the operator to address the violation and noticed that his eyes were glassy and there was an odor of alcohol about him. CPO Sandy conducted field sobriety tests and offered a preliminary breath test. The operator was arrested and transported to the Meherrin River Regional Jail where his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .10. The individual was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol and operating a PWC without an attached lanyard.
Lake Fest Event Safer Because of Enforcement Effort – On the evening of July 19, 2019, Senior CPO Brandon Harris and CPO Matthew Sandy initiated a boat patrol on Buggs Island Lake to coincide with the annual Lake Fest event held in the Town of Clarksville in Mecklenburg County. At approximately 9:15 PM, they stopped a pontoon boat that was not displaying a stern light. During the safety equipment inspection, the operator acted as if he had been consuming alcoholic beverages. He was asked to come on board the patrol boat where Senior Officer Harris administered field sobriety tests. The subject performed poorly on the tests and was arrested by Senior Officer Harris for operating under the influence. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.14.
Lake Fest Fireworks Event Yields Intoxicated Boater – On the night of July 20, 2019, Senior CPO Brandon Harris and CPO Nicholas Belotte were on boat patrol on Buggs Island Lake for the annual Lake Fest fireworks display. At the conclusion of the fireworks, they observed a vessel displaying improper navigation lights as well as not displaying an all-around white light. Senior Officer Harris activated his emergency lights but the vessel ignored them and continued to travel even after repeatedly illumination by handheld lights from both officers. Only after getting close enough to verbally direct the operator to stop the vessel did he comply. Upon pulling alongside the vessel, Senior Officer Harris observed an expired registration decal and recognized the operator as someone whom he had been in previous contact with. There were eight adults on the vessel. When asked for the required life jackets, the operator advised that there were only five on board. The operator exhibited numerous signs of being under the influence. As a result, Senior Officer Harris asked to put on a life jacket and step onto the patrol boat. He attempted to put on two different jackets and ultimately it took the assistance of both officers to properly fit a life jacket on him. Once on the patrol boat, Senior Officer Harris administered field sobriety tests. The subject performed poorly on the tests and was arrested for operating under the influence and issued a summons for the safety equipment and registration violations. The intoxicated operators blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.12.
Illegal Fishing Below Leesville Dam – CPO Cory Harbour was on boat patrol, on the Staunton River, just below the Leesville Dam, in Campbell County, when he observed three men on the shore of the AEP property. He could see one of them casting a rod and reel, another swimming, and another that initially just seemed to be standing there. As he got closer, he noticed the rod and reel had now disappeared and the man standing there was frantically trying to peel off fishing line he had wrapped around his hand. The man, who had been holding the rod, suddenly walked out into knee-deep water and retrieved the fishing rod from the water when he realized Cory was going to pull up on top of it. Upon making contact with them, Officer Harbour discovered the other man was fishing with the line around his hand and actually had a fish on the line. He also found a cooler full of beer, which is prohibited in that area, and a bag with several dead fish. The two men were trying to conceal their fishing tackle because neither of them had fishing licenses. All three men initially claimed they did not understand English, and were speaking to each other quickly in Spanish, until Officer Harbour notified them that he did understand some of what they were saying. He was then able to explain the offenses to the men and placed charges for the licenses, fish, and alcohol.
Attention to Detail Keeps Roadway Safer – After completing a boat safety checkpoint on Buggs Island Lake, CPO Keith Wilson and CPO Tyler Blanks were headed home when they encountered a driver they thought to be intoxicated. After following the vehicle for a short distance, it became apparent that the driver was impaired. CPO K. Wilson initiated a traffic stop and made contact with the driver. The driver of the vehicle admitted to having several alcoholic beverages earlier that evening and there was a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. CPO K. Wilson conducted field sobriety tests. As a result, he arrested the driver and transported him to the Meherrin River Regional Jail where his final blood alcohol content (BAC) was a .09. The individual was charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and unlawfully stopping in the roadway.
Region III – Southwest
Reckless Driver on Clinch Mountain WMA – On July 1, 2019, CPO Matthew Arnold received a call about a reported reckless driver on Clinch Mountain WMA. The caller stated he had been passed by a truck traveling at a high rate of speed on the recently opened portion of the WMA road between the Jackson’s Gap and Flat Top areas of Clinch Mountain WMA. Officer Arnold responded to the scene where he discovered the vehicle parked on a pull off between the Panther Lick and Jackson’s Gap gates. As Officer Arnold approached the running vehicle, he discovered two males asleep in the driver and passenger seats. Officer Arnold immediately noticed a smoking device that indicated drug activity on the dash of the truck. After repeated attempts to wake the two subjects, Officer Arnold had to yell before they responded. He then ordered them both from the vehicle. After speaking to both subjects briefly, both admitted the smoking device was used for a marijuana substitute and reported that they had last used it the night before. They admitted there was more of the resin/oil in the vehicle and gave consent to search the vehicle. CPO Arnold recovered the container the subjects reported was a resin with a THC based product they had purchased in Washington D.C. Officer Arnold received a positive result after testing the resin with his issued marijuana test kit. CPO Arnold cautioned the driver on navigating the one lane road at a high rate of speed and spoke to him about the complaint he had received. CPO Arnold issued both subjects a summons for possession of marijuana and warned them of DGIF WMA regulations.
Drinking and Littering at Elk Creek – On July 2, 2019, CPO Rorabaugh was on a patrol of Elk Creek in Grayson County, which is stocked trout waters, in an area where there have been numerous issues and violations in the past. Officer Rorabaugh observed from a concealed location, 3 subjects that appeared to be drinking alcohol. As they started to leave, one individual picked up their trash and placed it in a bag and walked to their vehicle and placed the bag inside the vehicle. The subjects moved the car from its location to another location approximately 30 yards down the road to swim in the creek. The driver of the vehicle got out and took a bottle and threw it in the woods and the backseat passenger got out and threw a cigarette pack into the woods not far from Officer Rorabaugh’s position. The appropriate summonses were issued.
New River Patrol Nets Violators – On July 4, 2019, CPO Rorabaugh and Sergeant Keene were on patrol of the New River in Grayson County. The officers pulled into Riverside boat ramp and observed several individuals that were standing beside the end of the ramp with what appeared to be alcoholic beverages. The officers made contact with the individuals and discovered several alcoholic beverages. Sgt. Keene observed the one individual placed a container into a bag. Sgt. Keene was given consent to search the bag and located a small case with a glass smoking device and a green leafy substance. The substance was field tested and tested positive for marijuana. The appropriate summonses were issued to the individuals. The officers detected several other violations throughout the day.
Violations Along the New River – On July 5, 2019, CPOs Akers, Rorabaugh and Sergeant Keene were observing several individuals that were fishing on the New River in Wythe County after dark. The officers made contact with the individuals to check for fishing licenses. One of the individuals was acting nervous and said he wasn’t fishing. Sgt. Keene located two syringes on the individual and the individual stated that he had used them the day before to inject methamphetamine. The officer located a pontoon boat tied off to the bank that the officers observed being operated earlier that day. A check of the boat revealed several violations. The appropriate summonses were issued to this group of individuals. Prior to leaving the area, the officers noticed another camp site up the river and made contact with four individuals who were engaged in fishing activity. The officers found alcohol in their possession and all four individuals were the under the legal age. The appropriate summonses were issued to the individuals.
Meet the Local CPOs – On July 12, 2019, Senior CPOs James Brooks and George Shupe offered a “Meet the Local CPO’s” event at H&V Sporting Goods in Cedar Bluff, Tazewell County. The Officers provided answers to a number of questions from patrons at the Sporting Goods store and provided information regarding the recent road closure on Clinch Mountain WMA, as well as many other inquiries from the public.
CPOs Recover the Body of Missing Child – On July 9, 2019, at approximately 2030 hours, Sergeant Keene, Officer Rorabaugh, Officer Anders, and Officer Brewer responded to a request for assistance from Wythe County Sheriff’s Office and Lead Mines Rescue Squad to assist with locating a missing three year old female in the Barren Springs section of Wythe County. The female was last seen in the vicinity of the New River Trail and possibly had gone into the New River. The officers arrived on scene and assisted with the initial search of the area with negative results. Multiple DCR officers also responded to assist. Sgt. Keene developed information from an individual at a camp site that had heard a child scream in the direction of the river. This information was corroborated by a second witness. Wythe County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police began organizing search teams but were concentrating on the trail instead of the river. Sgt. Keene directed DGIF units to conduct a search together of the river shore line working from the incident scene down river. At approximately 0100 hrs. the officers located an object in a set of shoals approximately a half mile below the incident scene. The object matched the colors of the clothing reported being worn by the child but they could not positively identify the object. Sgt. Keene traveled back to the incident site to contact the Pulaski Fire and Rescue department who had the only boat on the water at the time. Sgt. Keene and Officer Brewer prepared to launch their boat when they were contacted by Officer Rorabaugh confirming the object in the water was the body of the missing three year old. Sgt. Keene and Officer Brewer launched their boat and took a Lead Mines Rescue Squad Member and a Wythe County Sheriff’s Officer Investigator to the location to document and recover the body. The child’s parents were believe to be under the influence of methamphetamine and were arrested for felony child endangerment after recovering the body.
CPOs Attend Community Event – On July 11, 2019, Virginia CPOs Derrick Rickels, Dylan Harding, and Matt Meade attended a community event in Scott County. The event was held by the Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency. ACADA serves low to moderate income individuals and families from Lee, Scott, and Wise counties. The ACADA accepts donations made from various organizations for an auction at the annual event. The conservation officers answered several questions and passed out several donated items from Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop. Educational materials were for all in attendance from DGIF.
Region 3 CPOs and Staff Recognized – On Jul 11, 2019, multiple officers from District 32 to include Officer Akers, Officer Billings, K9 Josie, and Sgt. Keene were recognized at the Wythe County School board meeting by Wythe County School Superintendent Dr. Scott Jefferies for their effort in creating and facilitating a reward day for Fort Chiswell Middle School. The reward day was aimed at encouraging students to attend school and consisted of a reward day to Rural Retreat Lake where students participated in a nature hike, archery station, kayaks, and fishing. Approximately 60 students participated and all left home with their very own fishing pole, tackle box and other outdoor gear. Officer Rorabaugh and Anders had an active role in supporting the event but were unable to attend the presentation. The event was a team effort supported by multiple DGIF staff members across Region 3 and would not have been a success without their active support and participation.
CPOs and K9s Respond to Multiple Calls for Assistance – During the Week of July 7-13, CPO Tyler Sheets responded to multiple calls for CPO assistance with Smyth and Washington Counties. On July 8, Officer Sheets responded to a request from Va. State Police and Smyth County Sheriff’s Office related to a search for a missing person in the Thomas Bridge area of Smyth County. The search eventually involved Department K9 units Mark Vandyke and “Avery” and Wes Billings and “Josey”. The missing subject, who had walked away from a motor vehicle accident two days prior, was located about a mile from the scene of the accident. The subject suffered injuries from the vehicle accident, but was otherwise in stable condition.
Hikers Accidentally Get Between a Sow and Her Cubs – On July 12, Officer Sheets responded to a request for assistance from U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Chris Ramey and the Town of Damascus Police Department in locating two hikers that were involved in a self-defense bear incident on the Appalachian Trail, near the Town of Damascus. After locating the hikers, an investigation revealed that they had inadvertently gotten in between a sow Black Bear and her cubs; resulting in the sow advancing on the hikers in a threatening manner, and being shot once by one of the hikers. The sow Bear left the scene of the incident, along with her cubs, and was not located by Officer Sheets or USFS LEO Ramey. The hikers, though shaken by the incident, suffered no injuries in the incident.
Extensive Investigation Pays Off – In November 2018, a cellular camera used was stolen from private property in a remote area of Pulaski County. The camera was hidden 12 feet above the ground and secured to a tree with a steel locking cable in an attempt to capture subjects trespassing. When CPO Peake went to check the camera he noticed the top of the tree had been sawed off and the camera was gone. Officer Peake worked diligently and submitted multiple search warrants to Google and US Cellular in an attempt to locate a possible suspect. Officer Peake’s determination and continued persistence paid off in July, when he was able to learn the name of a suspect who had been in possession of the camera. Officer Peake and Officer Wirt spoke with multiple people about the day the camera was taken and obtained written statements. The main suspect was currently being held in jail for another matter when the officers interviewed him. He admitted to cutting the camera from the tree and selling it to a family member. The officers went to the family member’s residence and were told the camera was still there. A quick consent search was conducted but the camera was not located. Multiple guns were observed inside the residence when the search was conducted. The next day, CPO’s Peake, Wirt, and Shaw executed a search warrant of the residence. They were unsuccessful in locating the camera and the guns were no longer where they had been the day before. After a short interview with the family member that allowed the consent search the day before, it was determined the guns had been taken to a neighbor’s house. The family member is a 6 time convicted felon and moved the guns in case the CPO’s returned. A total of 8 guns and a large variety of ammunition were seized. Multiple charges are pending including felon in possession of guns and ammunition, trespassing, and larceny of the camera.
CPOs Participate in Mock Boat Crash with Injuries – On July 15, 2019, District 31 CPOs participated in a mock boat crash with injuries at Claytor Lake State Park. The training drill was conducted by Carilion Medical Services and included their medical flight helicopter, Life Guard 11. The training scenario was a boat crash with two small children who sustained injuries on the bank of the lake. Two adults were also involved with life threating injuries. One adult was still in the water and one adult successfully reached the shoreline. CPO’s Wirt, Shaw, and Rutledge responded by patrol boat and transported the injured adult off the water. Officers Shaw and Rutledge stabilized the injured adult while Officer Wirt operated the patrol boat to the bank for EMS to take over patient care. Officers Wensel and Brewer assisted in landing zone security for Med Flight Helicopter Life Guard 11. The training was to define how paramedics and the flight crew could identify severe injuries, treat, and transport. The event was a professional training session geared to allow all personnel to fine tune their respective skills and build teamwork.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
BUI Subject Arrested – On Saturday, June 29, 2019, in response to several prior to the July 4th fireworks displays, districts 45, 46 and 47 conducted boating patrols in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties. Six CPOs participated in the operation to include Sgt. Rich Goszka, Officers Rich Landers, Eric Plaster, Roger Palmisano, Katiana Quarles and Beth Garrett. At 9:00 pm, Sgt. Goszka and Officer Landers observed a boat operating without a stern light. The boat was stopped and the male operator was determined to be under the influence of alcohol. The operator was arrested and his final blood alcohol content was .20. He is lodged in the Manassas Jail on a $5,000 bond.
Boat in Distress on Lake Anna – On June 23, 2019 CPOs Eller and Newton responded to the power plant area of Lake Anna for reports of a boat in distress. When they arrived on scene, the Louisa Sheriff’s Department had the occupants of the involved vessel safely on their patrol boat. The owner/ operator of the vessel had made multiple repairs recently and was still experiencing issues while using the boat that weekend. He had stopped to work on the engine, but after taking a break noticed smoke coming from the engine area. Both occupants put on life jackets and jumped from the vessel. No injuries were seen or reported and the vessel was removed from the water and taken to a local marina by Tow Boat. Sgt. Boulanger and Officer Sumpter responded to the marina by vehicle to take over the investigation from the on-water units. Violations were discovered and addressed appropriately. The investigation is ongoing.
Running from CPO Results in Subject Spending the Night in the Woods and Getting Arrested Anyway – On June 17, 2019, CPO Tim Bostic conducted a foot patrol in Culpeper County at the Hazel River Bridge. While pulling into the area located beneath the bridge, Officer Bostic observed three individuals begin concealing items near a vehicle. Two of the subjects walked to the front of the vehicle. Officer Bostic observed one male drinking and he discarded what appeared to be a beer bottle into the bushes. Upon contact, all three individuals smelled of an alcoholic beverage and a nearly consumed case of Corona was in plain view. When questioned about the item thrown into the bushes, drinking alcohol, and asking for ID; the three subjects failed to cooperate. Officer Bostic stepped close to the subject observed littering and attempted to detain him. The subject stepped back while stating “no” and began to run. The subject then failed to stop as Officer Bostic gave commands to do so. Officer Bostic detained the remaining two subjects before attempting to locate the subject that ran. Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and assisted in attempting to track the suspect that fled. Deputies responding noticed the suspect and attempted to stop him before he fled into a large field. The suspect continued to run from Sheriff’s units who deployed a K9 and a drone in the area. Efforts were disrupted by thunderstorms. By nightfall the tracking efforts were suspended and the suspect was still at large. The two subjects detained were identified and determined to be juveniles. They were released to a family member and charged appropriately. At approximately 07:30 am the next morning, Sheriff Scott Jenkins radioed Culpeper Sheriff’s Office Dispatch of a suspicious person matching the description of the subject on Sperryville Pike approximately 5 miles from the last known location. The suspect fled into nearby woods. Culpeper Sheriff’s Office deployed a K9 and tracked the suspect for a short distance before he was apprehended. Officer Bostic responded to continue the investigation. Officer Bostic determined the suspect was also a juvenile who spent the night attempting to navigate the woods and fields of Culpeper County. He was released to a parent and the appropriate charges placed for underage possession of alcohol, obstruction of justice, littering, and drinking in public. Charges are pending on the adult who authorized the use of a motor vehicle to unlicensed juveniles as well as a felony charge for one of the individuals who gave false information and signed the summons.
Several Agencys Work Together to Rescue 4 Tubers on the James River – Around 4:30 pm on July 4, 2019, Region 4 Conservation Police Officers Inge, Heberling, Chaffin, and Sgt. Ferguson were notified by Albemarle Emergency Communications Center that there was a person stuck on an island in the James River somewhere between Hatton Ferry and Howardsville. Strong storms had just passed through the area and the person had called 911 requesting help. Officers Heberling, Chaffin, and Sgt. Ferguson responded with the River Road Jet Boat. Officer Inge responded by land with a team from Charlottesville/Albemarle Rescue Squad. Region 2 Conservation Police Officers Rogers and Sumner, along with Cumberland Deputy Doss, also responded with an inflatable Zodiac, launching from Howardsville and heading downstream. Sgt. Ferguson and Officer Chaffin launched from Hatton Ferry and proceeded upstream. Before launching, the search was updated and now included a total of four individuals in need of rescue. Once on the river, Officer Chaffin and Sgt. Ferguson met up with Scottsville Water Rescue Team Boat 70 and checked the river up to Warren Ferry, but were unable to find the group. About 3/4 mile upstream from Warren Ferry, Officers Rogers and Sumner located the four people near a set of rapids, standing waist deep in the middle of the river. Everyone was safe, but the Zodiac did not have enough room to transport the group to shore. Officer Chaffin and Sgt. Ferguson navigated the rapids, along with Boat 70, to transport the group and their tubes to Warren Ferry for further transport by land. The tubers had launched at Howardsville around 10:30 am that morning, and had planned to float to Hatton Ferry, over 8 miles away. At the time of rescue, 6:30 pm, the group had traveled only 4.5 miles downriver due to low water conditions.
CPOs Respond to Overturned Canoe During Peak of Thunderstorm – On July 4, 2019, CPO Sgt. Rich Goszka and Officer Mark Sanitra were at Leesylvania State Park in Prince William County waiting out a strong thunderstorm. The officers heard radio traffic from Mason Neck State Park regarding and overturned canoe with people in the water. The officers responded to the Belmont Bay area by patrol boat during the peak of the storm and pulled a father from the water as a passing boater assisted his children. Officer Landers assisted at the park with guiding the boater to shore and removing the group to safety. All were wearing life jackets.
CPOs provide ATV and UTV Training – On Saturday, June 29, 2019, Senior CPO Neil Kester provided basic ATV and UTV training to The Defense Intelligence Agency and Fort Belvoir Police Department in Charlottesville. These agencies will take this training that was provided by DGIF and train the rest of their officers.
Spotlighting – On Friday, June 28, 2019, just before midnight, Senior CPO Neil Kester was off duty and received a call of spotlighting in the western part of Augusta County. The caller followed the suspect vehicle while Officer Kester geared up and responded. Officer Kester caught up with the caller and suspect vehicle in the Churchville area of Augusta County. The suspect vehicle was stopped and was occupied by a male driver and female passenger. They admitted spotlighting and gave Officer Kester the spotlight. There were no weapons in the vehicle at the time of the stop. The suspects stated that they were looking for a lost dog. They stated that they called the Sheriff’s Office at approximately 1700 hours earlier in the day but they were unable to prove they made that call. Officer Kester contacted the Sheriff’s Office and provided the dispatcher the number that was supposedly used to make the call. The dispatcher stated that the last call the Sheriff’s Office received from that number was on the previous Monday to report a dog missing. Since the suspect’s story didn’t add up, both occupants were charged with Spotlighting W/O Weapons.
Search and Rescue – George Washington National Forest/Vance’s Cove – On July 6, 2019 at approximately 1900 hours, CPO D.C. Hyman responded to the Vance’s Cove area of the GWNF to assist Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue as well as Deputies from Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to locate two lost mountain bikers. The two female mountain bikers had started biking from their vehicle in the morning and later in the day went off trail and eventually became lost. They were able to get cell phone signal and called 911 which allowed FCSO to get a GPS location off the position of their phone. CPO Hyman assisted in navigating through the forest and opening gates which allowed officers to continue on a UTV and on foot to eventually get to the lost bikers’ position. Using a megaphone and GPS, the officers located the two bikers while on foot just before dark. The mountain bikers were unharmed and returned to their vehicle with the aid of the officers, which was over 4 miles from where they were found.
CPO Assists in Horrific Accident – While traveling on I-81 South in Augusta County CPO Fisher observed traffic at a stop on the I-64 E on ramp. CPO Fisher observed a male laying on the ground with an above the knee amputation on his right leg. The man identified himself as Jim McKinney and stated he had hit road debris and then the guardrail. He appeared to be in shock and had lost copious amounts of blood. CPO Fisher and a bystander who later identified himself as an ER physician from Missouri secured a tourniquet to the patient leg to stop the bleeding. EMS arrived shortly after and took over the care of the patient.
CPO Administers Life Saving Treatment on the Side of the Highway – On June 28, 2019 CPO Eller was on patrol along Constitution Highway in Orange County. While on patrol, he came upon a vehicle that was blocking the travel lane of the highway. As Officer Eller exited his vehicle, he observed a second vehicle parked in the travel lane in front of the first vehicle. As Officer Eller approached both vehicles, he observed two males standing beside the front vehicle, with the doors ajar. Upon getting closer, Officer Eller learned that there was a female driver leaned back in the driver seat. Officer Eller inspected the female, who appeared to be deceased, as her eyes were wide open and her face appeared glazed. One of the male bystanders explained that the female had shallow breathing, but that she would only breathe about every 30 seconds. Officer Eller attempted to get a response from the female by yelling at her and checking for a pulse. Unable to detect a pulse, Officer Eller conducted a sternum rub and checked for any rise of her chest from taking a breath, but no movement was detected. Officer Eller then deployed and attached his issued AED to the female victim. Officer Eller then heard a faint gurgle, followed by saliva, come from her mouth. With the AED attached, one shock was advised and delivered to the female. After the first shock, the AED reanalyzed the female and advised of no further shock, but to continue CPR measures. Officer Eller checked once again for a pulse and was not able to locate one. As he conducted CPR, he heard another gurgle come from the female’s mouth, all while her eyes were wide open and her face still appearing glazed. While continuing to conduct CPR, EMS arrived on scene and took over CPR efforts. The female, who had regained a pulse, was then transported to Mary Washington Hospital for further medical treatment. While on scene, Officer Eller was advised by one of the male bystanders that he was a passenger with the female at the time of the incident. He stated that the female was asthmatic and that they were returning from a veterinarian assignment when the female stated she felt like she was going to faint. He said she was in the process of using her inhaler when she collapsed behind the wheel. He helped bring the vehicle to a stop before the other bystander and Officer Eller arrived. The scene was turned over to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The female is alive and continuing to recover in a local hospital.
CPO Presents and Exhibit for Kids Summer Camp – On Monday, July 8, Senior CPO Neil Kester spoke and made an exhibit for youth that were attending summer camp at Fishersville United Methodist Church. There were 26 youth, ages 2 to 10 that were attending the camp. Officer Kester spoke to them about the duties of a CPO and had an exhibit with furs that included beaver, muskrat, skunk, red and gray fox, coyote, and many more. Also displayed were beaver and bobcat skulls. The children enjoyed touching the furs and skulls!
CPOs Assist Tubers in Storm – On July 4, 2019, Senior CPO Kester and Sgt. Ham were on patrol of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River when they were approached by a male and female requesting to use a phone. They had been floating the river with 5 other people when a severe thunderstorm came over the area producing a lot of lightning. The group of tubers became separated from each other with some of the party choosing to get off the river in the storm and others choosing to continue the float. No one in the group had a working phone and the 2 people that flagged down the officers were very unfamiliar with the area. The officers assisted in locating the others members of the party and gave rides back to their vehicles to safely get them off the water during the severe storm.
Multiple Agencies Assist in Recovering Missing Man in the James River – On Saturday July 13, 2019, CPOs Matt Cavazos, Adam Roberts, Jon Hart, Brandon Robinson, and Sgt. Steve Ferguson responded to a late evening incident on the James River near Watkins landing. Goochland Sheriff’s Office reported a man had fallen out of a boat and was missing. Numerous law enforcement, fire, and rescue agencies responded to search the waters. Officer Hart was the first CPO on the scene, and he quickly started gathering information about the boats and people involved. Officer Cavazos arrived and joined Officer Hart to travel down river to speak with witnesses. During their interviews, officers determined that the missing 42 year old man had jumped into the water from an anchored boat, possibly in search of some golf balls that had been hit into the river. Police, fire, and rescue searched the river until darkness set in, and the search was postponed until the following morning. Search teams formed again Sunday morning, and the missing man’s body was located more than a mile downstream from where he had entered the water. CPO’s Cavazos and Roberts secured the scene until Goochland Fire and Rescue arrived to recover the body. The incident is under investigation, but foul play is not suspected. The victim was not wearing a life jacket.
BUI – At 1945 hours, a boat entered a check point staffed by Goszka and Sanitra. The operator was suspected of operating under the influence and field sobriety tests were administered by Sanitra. A preliminary breath test was offered which resulted in a blood alcohol content of .17. Sanitra arrested the subject for BUI. The subject submitted to final breath sample at the Prince William Police station and the results were a .14 BAC. The magistrate charged the subject with boating while intoxicated.
CPO’s and Warren County Youth Enjoy the Outdoors – On July 10, 2019 Sgt. Carl Martin and CPOs Alberto Medina and Mike Corrado provided activities for approximately 40 kids as part of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Youth Camp. The kids are divided into two groups (Deer & Elk!) with one group having the opportunity to fish and the other group tests their skills with map & compass; the groups then switch. During the fishing event, the kids learn why laws and regulations are important, why it’s important to correctly identify the fish you’ve caught, the effects of littering, and of course, Fish CPR! Thanks to Alex McCrickard, Aquatic Education Coordinator, each camper receives a packet of fun and educational material; they also receive an Angling Education Certificate. The campers then get to enjoy time catching blue gill and bass. As part of the land navigation course, the kids learn the basics of map & compass. They are tasked with following several courses where they are surprised to see a deer, fox, or a cool beaver log at the end! Several years ago, CPO Medina added this map and compass activity with a wildlife theme, and the kids really enjoy this event. We would like to thank the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for inviting us to participate in their camp each year, and the Izaak Walton League for allowing these events to be held on their beautiful property in Warren County!
K9 Bailey Assists US Fish and Wildlife – A property owner pleads guilty and received fines in Federal County in June 2019, as a result of an investigation into destroying the nest of a bald eagle. In February of 2018, Special Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency contacted CPO Patrillo to request K9 Bailey’s assistance in locating a bald eagle nest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service had been remotely monitoring a Bald Eagle nest in King William County when the nest suddenly disappeared. With Bailey’s assistance, the officers located the nest and evidence indicating that the tree containing the nest had been deliberately cut down. The officers were able to link the evidence and the activity to the owner of the property. The property owner later admitted to cutting down the tree with the intent of removing the eagles from his property.
K9 Bailey Encourages Boating Safety – K9 Bailey assisted the agencies outreach efforts this week by participating in a public service announcement promoting the use of personal flotation devices. Bailey was filmed working and playing in the James River while wearing her life jacket, and she even has a speaking role. Keep an eye on the DGIF social media sites for the video.
CPO Billings and K9 Josie Assist with Missing Person – On July 8, VDGIF K9 Units in Region 3 assisted the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police with a search for a subject missing in the Thomas Bridge area of Smyth County. The subject had been missing from a vehicle accident site since Saturday July 6. VDGIF K9 Josie was used around the accident scene and along a stream bank to look for additional personal items or anything related to the missing person. All additional searches came up with no additional evidence or location of the subject. The missing subject was eventually found on July 9 hiding under a bridge downstream from the accident scene.
CPOs Recognized for Outdoor Recreation for Wythe County Schools – On July 11, VDGIF K9 Josie and Senior Conservation K9 Officer Wes Billings along with Conservation Police Officer Matt Akers and Conservation Police Sergeant Adam Keene attended the July meeting of the Wythe County School Board. The officers were recognized for their participation in a program at the Fort Chiswell Middle School for promoting school attendance. The officers provided outdoor recreation related activities throughout the school year for qualifying participants and hosted a field day at the end of the school year at Rural Retreat Lake sponsored by VDGIF.
CPO Billings and K9 Josie Search area so Large Blood – On July 11, Senior K9 Conservation Police Officer Wes Billings and K9 Josie assisted the Wythe County Sheriffs Office with attempting to determine how a large amount of blood was found on a heat and air unit outside a residence. The investigation found that a large breed great dane dog teathered near the heatpump may have been responsible for the large amount of blood found. Possibly caused by attacking a small animal near the heat pump or cutting itself. K9 Josie was used around the perimeter of the property to look for any exit paths that may have shown signs of bleeding. Nothing was found around the house with the K9 search.
Officer Howald and K9 Sky Help Sheriff’s Office Locate Firearm – On July 12, 2019, Senior K9 Officer Richard Howald and K9 Sky were called out to assist Amherst County Sheriff’s Department with locating a firearm, for an ongoing investigation. At the residence there were old cars, mowers, boats, small out buildings, and the yard was very over grown around the house. Officer Howald was asked to use K9 Sky around the outside of the house while the deputies focused on the inside of the residence. Officer Howald worked K9 Sky around the yard, but she did not show any interest around all of the items. Due to it being 90 degrees, Officer Howald put Sky in his vehicle to cool off. He then walked around the 40 acre property to see if there was any visual sign in the tall vegetation and located a spot where someone had been going between the woods and the back yard of the residence. Officer Howald followed this track and located a small building completely covered up by briers, which he had not seen from the yard when working Sky. He also noticed vegetation pulled in front of the door, showing the door had been opened recently. He opened the door and everything was covered in dust except an old tent that was lying in the corner. After moving the tent, and a piece of metal, there was a very clean garbage bag containing items. Officer Howald notified investigators and they removed the garbage bag and the AK-47 style firearm they were looking for was inside.
CPO Cramer and K9 Waylon Attend K9 Casualty Care Training – On July 10, CPO Cramer and K9 Waylon attended K9 Casualty Care training with the Fredericksburg City Police Department. The officers received extensive training on how to care for their K9 partners in the incident that an injury occurs either on or off duty. This training covered a wide variety of injuries from cut pads, broken bones, and gun shot and stab wounds. After the class room portion, the officer’s knowledge was put to the test. The instructor put together a scenario where the Officers and their K9 partners were conducting a search inside of a building and unknown suspect (role player) shot their K9 partner. The officers are expected to address the threat, remove their K9 partner from the area, and provide first aid for the injuries the instructors advised they sustained during the altercation.
CPO Billhimer and K9 Justice Locate Runaway Juvenile – On July 11, 2019, Senior K9 Officer Wayne Billhimer and his trusty partner K9 Justice was requested to run a track. A 16 year old male juvenile ran away from home in the middle of the night. He took a flashlight, cell phone and extra clothes. He quickly outran his dad who tried to stop him disappearing into the night. K9 Justice picked up the juveniles track on an asphalt road. K9 Justice tracked down the road for about .5 miles then turned a hard right into a thick, brushy wooded area. K9 Justice continued to track straight to the juvenile who was sitting and hiding behind a tree. Officer Billhimer talked with the juvenile, who was having suicidal thoughts, for almost two hours before calming him down and bringing him out of the woods. The runaway is now seeking professional help.
CPOs and K9 Participate in Meet Your CPO – On July 19, 2019 CPOs Joe Early, Mark VanDyke and K-9 Avery participated in “Meet Your Conservation Police Officer” at the Russell County Walmart in Lebanon. Officer Early spoke to the public on boating safety and the current changes in the 2019 hunting regulation. Officer VanDyke had the opportunity to speak with the public about the K-9 program and the K-9 unit’s responsibility within DGIF. K-9 Avery was on hand and a big hit with the kids.
K9 Bailey Assists Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office with Investigation – On July 18, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s department contacted DGIF and requested K9 assistance in searching for a firearm that was used in crime. Officers Wilson, Patrillo and K9 Bailey responded to the scene. Bailey searched two separate areas of interest connected to the crime scene and determined that neither contained the firearm in question. The Mecklenburg Sheriff’s department has a suspect in custody and will continue to investigate for a possible location of the firearm in question.