August 28 – September 17, 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
BUI Arrest at Osborne Boat Landing – On August 25, 2019, CPO B. Robinson was on a foot patrol at Osborne Boat Landing in Henrico County. He was flagged down by a boater and informed that an older model boat was sitting in the middle of the channel. The complainant stated that he barely had room to maneuver around the boat and as he passed the female passenger and the driver were in the boat yelling and acting belligerent holding up beers. Officer Robinson positioned his vehicle at the boat ramp and around 6:50 pm, he observed a boat approaching the boat ramp matching the description of the boat described by the complaint. As the boat operator was attempting to tie the boat off to the dock he quickly became agitated while attempting to get the lines tied off to the dock. Officer Robinson observed the operator load his boat, while the suspect was having a hard time keeping his balance. Once the boat was loaded, Officer Robinson contacted the suspect. The operator of the vessel stated he had consumed 3 beers and declined FST’s and the PBT, and was subsequently placed under arrest and transported to Henrico Jail West for suspicion of OUI. While at the jail, the suspect blew a 0.14. A warrant for Operating Under the Influence was issued and the suspect was released on a unsecured bond of $1,500.
OUI Checkpoint Nets Intoxicated Operator Returning from North Carolina – On Sunday, September 1, 2019, CPOs from District 14 conducted a boating safety checkpoint on the Nottoway River, near the North Carolina boundary, in response to complaints of impaired operators returning from North Carolina. Officers Gilmore, Rollings, Smith, Jones, and Sgt. Woodruff participated in the checkpoint. Near the end of the checkpoint a boat entered the checkpoint zone at a slow speed and almost came to a complete stop for several minutes down river from the patrol boats. Using binoculars, three officers observed the operator and passenger change positions in the boat. Upon contacting the vessel the occupants denied switching operators. Officer Smith conducted FSTs on the initial operator and offered him a preliminary breath test. The operator provided a breath sample with a BAC of .105. The operator was placed under arrest and taken to the nearest intoxilyzer for a breath test and provided a breath sample with a BAC of .08. The second operator was not familiar with the boat and had difficulty getting the boat in gear. Sgt. Woodruff, Officer Rollings and Jones transported the boat and individual to the nearby private marina where fellow citizens helped her load the boat.
Weeks of Surveillance Leads to Hunters Being Charged with Hunting Doves over Bait – Several weeks prior to the opening of dove season, CPOs Rollings and Gilmore began conducting surveillance of a field that they suspected of being baited for doves. Upon conducting their surveillance, they observed two individuals that frequented the location in question and they observed one of the individuals spreading seed from a bucket onto the field. On September 2, 2019, Officers Rollings and Smith returned to the field to conduct surveillance on opening day. The officers observed 7 subjects come to the field and hunt, at which time the officers approached the hunters and ended the hunt. Both individuals who were involved in the baiting were charged for the offenses. The other individuals hunting were not charged, but could no longer hunt.
Party of 10 Charged with Hunting Doves over Bait – On Monday, September 2, 2019, CPO Jones was patrolling Greensville County looking for dove hunting activity. While on patrol he located a group of 10 hunters on paths at the end of a dead end road. Upon checking licenses and bag limits, Officer Jones noticed corn, sunflowers, and other grains spread upon a gravel driveway, blacktop road, and dirt paths surrounding an abandoned mineral mining pit. The only fields close to the location contained cotton and not grain, sunflowers or corn. Upon further investigation, Officer Jones was able to determine the land owner and conducted an interview to determine the source of the bait. During his conversation with the landowner, the landowner was honest and took responsibility for spreading the bait. After Officer Jones completed his investigation, all of the individuals that were hunting were charged due to how apparent it was that their location had been baited.
Norfolk and Virginia Beach Saturation Patrol – On August 30, 2019, from 8:00 pm to midnight, District 13 Conservation Police Officers conducted a saturation patrol of the beaches in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. CPOs Wakefield, Druy, and Wiedel conducted foot patrols in Norfolk at the Norfolk Naval Base, Willoughby Spit Boat Ramp, Ocean View Beach near the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Captains Quarters Rec Center, and Ocean View Fishing Pier. CPOs Corley, Smith, Braziel, and Sgt. Garvis conducted foot patrols at Lynnhaven Boat Ramp, Pleasure House Point Park, Chicks Beach near the Lesner Bridge, Rudy Inlet, and Owls Creek Boat Ramp. The patrols resulted in 19 summonses and 8 warnings. Enforcement actions included undersized fish (red drum, black drum, grey trout, flounder, and speckled trout), fishing license, navigation lights, boater safety education, and marijuana violations.
Hunter Caught Shooting Doves from Moving Truck – During the opening day of Dove season, Conservation Police Sergeant Valasek and Officer Hennaman monitored a field in Hanover County where violations had occurred in the past. As hunters took their stands after a short break, one hunter was riding on the tailgate of a moving truck being driven beside a powerline. As the vehicle passed a dove sitting on the wire, the occupant of the tail gate took a shot at the dove from the back of the moving truck when the dove flushed. This unethical and illegal behavior was addressed with the issuance of a summons. The rest of the hunters were checked with no further violations.
Officer Arrests Suspect with Extremely High Blood Alcohol Content – On August 31, 2019, Virginia CPOs from Districts 11 and 16 officers conducted a saturation boat patrol and boating safety checkpoint in Lancaster County. The patrol was targeting a beach area where officers have received complaints in reference to individuals operating vessels under the influence of alcohol. During the approved boating safety checkpoint, at approximately 7:00 pm, the CPO’s made contact with a vessel that entered the checkpoint screening area. Officer Dean boarded the vessel in order to conduct an inspection. He immediately detected an odor commonly associated with the consumption of an alcoholic beverage and observed alcohol containers as he began to check the safety equipment on the vessel. After checking for the required safety equipment, Officer Dean questioned the operator about the alcohol on board. The subject then stated that he had consumed 4 beers within 2 hours. Officer Dean then conducted standard field sobriety tests, which the subject performed poorly. A preliminary breath test (PBT) was offered and the subject provided a breath sample with a result of .15 BAC. He was then placed under arrest and transported to the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office. The subject provided a breath sample at the intoxilyzer approximately one and a half hours after he was placed under arrest with a final result of .24 g/210L of breath. The appropriate charges were placed. During the patrol, a total of 19 summonses were issued for boating and fishing related violations, along with the BUI arrest.
CPO’s Capture Fugitive Who Fled the Scene of a Vehicle Crash – On September 8, 2019, Virginia CPO Wakefield was assisting Chesapeake PD, Suffolk PD, and VSP search for two subjects who fled the scene of a vehicle accident after crashing a stolen vehicle during a pursuit along HWY 58 near the Suffolk/ Chesapeake line. At one point, Suffolk PD received information of a fugitive sighting near property which Officer Wakefield knew had multiple trail cameras currently deployed. Just as Officer Wakefield was calling the hunter to ask if he had pictures of the two subjects, a male fitting the description of one of the subjects appeared approximately 100 yards in front of Officer Wakefield’s vehicle. Officer Wakefield approached the subject and placed him in custody without further incident. The man was wearing only gym shorts, with no shirt or shoes, and was very scratched up from traversing a swampy and thickly wooded area near the highway. Officer Druy responded to assist Officer Wakefield shortly after the first subject was captured. As the two officers were checking a wooded area near where the first subject was captured, the previously mentioned hunter called and stated a subject fitting the description of the second man had tripped one of his trail cameras. Unfortunately, shortly before the call, Suffolk PD and Chesapeake PD decided to conclude the search. However, Officers Druy and Wakefield used the pictures to determine the subject’s direction of travel and continued searching. They were able to locate several tracks and deduced the subject was heading through the woods toward a nearby landfill. They then went directly to the landfill and contacted the security guard. He stated he had just caught a man fitting the description of the fugitive on the landfill property. The security guard stated he was wearing only shorts, one shoe, and was covered in leaves and straw. Unknown to the security guard, this was a wanted subject and the guard allowed the subject to use his cell phone to arrange transportation and then kicked him off the property. Suffolk PD responded with a K9, but was unable to locate the subject. The phone number the subject called and the trail camera pictures were sent to Suffolk PD.
CPO’s Catch Hunters Shooting Rail Birds under Power – On September 7, 2019, the Eastern Shore was still experiencing high water levels and coastal flooding associated with hurricane Dorian. This made for good hunting conditions for the opening day of rail season. Virginia Conservation Police Officers Bratton and Pennino conducted a boat patrol of the seaside marshes in Northampton County. The officers scheduled their patrol to coincide with the high tide cycle and the officers observed several boats out hunting in the marsh. One of these boats caught the officers’ attention as they were steadily idling through the guts and channels in the marsh attempting to jump rail birds up with the boat. The officers observed 2 subjects standing in the front of the boat holding shotguns, while a third subject was running the boat motor. The officers continued observing this boat and saw the hunters use the assistance of the boat motor to flush and shoot several rail birds. (This is a violation; the motor mush be shut off and the boats forward progress must cease before you shoot.) During their surveillance period, the officers documented several instances where these hunters shot rail birds with the assistance of the motor. After a while, the hunters noticed the officers watching them and attempted to leave the area. The officers stopped the boat and collected the hunters’ information and seized their birds. Multiple charges for taking migratory birds with the aid of a motor are pending in U.S. District court of Norfolk.
CPO and Biologist Find New Home for American Alligator – On September 11, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Bonnie Braziel responded to a call in reference to the illegal sale of an alligator. In reviewing the case information, Officer Braziel observed the Craigslist ad in which the suspect was advertising a baby American Alligator for sale with a re-homing fee of $100. The person who posted the ad also included a few pictures and a local phone number. With the assistance of DGIF Herpetologist J. D. Kleopfer, Officer Braziel contacted the seller and advised that they needed to meet and discuss the alligator, which the seller agreed to. Upon meeting the seller, the alligator was turned over to DGIF and swiftly transported to Reptile Educators of Virginia. The seller was then educated on the laws and regulations as they pertain to the possession and sale of wildlife and the appropriate charge was placed.
Region II – Southside
Incident Results in an OUI – On August 9, 2019, at approximately 9:25 pm, CPOs Tyler Blanks and Shane Wilson responded to a boating incident on Lake Gaston in Mecklenburg County. The caller stated that a boat was traveling at a high rate of speed with music playing when they heard a loud boom then all noise stopped and they could not see any lights. A few minutes later, the caller reported hearing screaming. Once on scene, CPOs Blanks and Wilson determined all passengers had exited the vessel and were not injured and were on a nearby dock. While obtaining witnesses statements, CPO Blanks made contact with the operator to address the incident. He noticed that the operator’s eyes were glassy and there was an odor of alcohol about him. CPO Blanks conducted field sobriety tests. The subject was arrested and transported to the Meherrin River Regional Jail to perform the Intoxilyzer which revealed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .11. The subject was charged with Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol and Reckless Operation.
Marijuana Possession While Fishing – On August 17, 2019, CPO Nick Belotte and Officer Matt Sandy were on boat patrol on Lake Gaston in Mecklenburg County when they observed a female and a juvenile fishing from kayaks. As they approached, the female threw something into the water and covered something in her kayak. They detected the odor of marijuana and asked the female what she had threw into the water and what she covered up? She admitted to throwing marijuana into the water and produced more marijuana from her bag. She was cited for possession of marijuana and fishing without a license.
Team Work Uncovers Drugs & Alcohol Violations – On August 21, 2019, CPO Tyler Routon worked with the Army National Guard, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police on drug eradication in the Ferrum area of Franklin County. Utilizing a State Police helicopter, ground units were able to locate marijuana plants and obtain a search warrant for the property. 10 plants were seized during the operation, and upon searching an out-building, an additional 5 pounds of processed marijuana was also seized. After interviewing the suspect further, the ATV used in connection with the maintenance of the marijuana crop was seized by Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Approximately 4 gallons of homemade alcohol and several weapons were logged and all information gathered was passed onto ABC and ATF for further investigation.
Bad Attitude Resulted In Trip To Jail – On August 10, 2019, while on boat patrol at Smith Mountain Lake, in Franklin County, CPOs Eric Dotterer and Brett Clawson received a report of a heavily intoxicated individual being held by an off duty Police Officer at the Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge Marina. When they arrived on scene, they found the male to be heavily intoxicated and noncompliant. Based on the suspect’s actions, he was placed under arrest for Drunk in Public and transported to the Pittsylvania County Jail.
Observations of Suspicious Vehicle Turns into DUI Arrest – On August 10, 2019, at approximately 10:30pm, CPO Brett Clawson was traveling westbound on Route 40, in Franklin County, when he observed a vehicle in front of him traveling that same direction with two defective taillights. Clawson observed the vehicle swerve multiple times and initiated a traffic stop. He noticed the operator had blood shot watery eyes and had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his person. The operator stated that he and his family had just left a party. He was given field sobriety tests and shortly thereafter, he was arrested and transported to the Franklin County Jail where he charged with having defective equipment, DUI, and Refusal.
Killing Geese Illegally – On August 19, 2019, CPOs Brett Clawson and James Hale responded to a property on Smith Mountain Lake within Franklin County where several geese had been found dead. An interview with the owner of the property resulted in his admitting to shooting at a group of geese with a .22 caliber rifle but that he was unsure if he had hit any of them. The owner said it was tough to determine if a goose was mortally wounded due to their large size. However, later in the conversation, the landowner said that he found one dead goose and decided to hang it up on a pole to act as a scarecrow to keep the remaining geese off his property. In addition to shooting at the geese, the landowner admitted that he had placed a trotline on a floating dock to potentially snag geese and teach them a lesson. He said if the geese wanted to go to war with him then he would go to war with them. The appropriate charges were placed.
Missing Person Found Fishing – On August 20, 2019, CPO Joe Williams was contacted by DGIF dispatch about a missing person notification that was received from the City of Salem Police Department. They had taken a report of a 19-year-old male that had gone missing the day before while fishing at a city park on the Roanoke River. The mother was supposed to pick him up at the park around 7:30pm but did not see him at the park or back at home. She filed a missing person report the following morning after contacting family members who advised that he had not contacted them. After being informed of the missing persons medical situation, and that he could not swim, CPO Williams decided to mark on and assist with the search. He checked a few hidden caves and other spots that the subject may have gone to before locating the missing male safe, down at the river fishing. He explained to CPO Williams that he was tired and went to sleep and when he got up the next morning, he started fishing again. CPO Williams contacted the Salem Police Department and had them respond to his location. The subject was checked out medically, removed from the NCIC missing person database, and reunited with his family.
Operating A PWC Over The Limit – On August 31, 2019, at approximately 8:20 pm, Conservation Police Officers Tyler Routon and Brett Clawson were on patrol on Smith Mountain Lake when they observed a PWC operating approximately thirty minutes after sunset. They followed it and watched as it entered a No Wake Zone well above no wake speed. They made contact with the two individuals at a dock, explained the reason for the stop, and noticed the operator had blood shot watery eyes, slurred his speech, and had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person. The operator said he and his friend had fallen asleep on an island near the dam and had lost track of time. The operator was given field sobriety tests and placed under arrest for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol. He was transported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Jail where his blood alcohol content was .14. The appropriate charges were placed.
Over The Limit & Bating Dove – On September 2, 2019, CPOs Routon, Clawson, Hale, and Sgt. Slaughter responded to a complaint of hunters obtaining over their bag limit of dove. Upon searching the field, they found three dove, scattered wheat seed and decoys, but the group of hunters had just hastily departed. CPO Routon stopped them, located 20 dove in the bed of the truck, and found that the operator of the vehicle did not have a valid hunting license. CPOs Routon and Clawson conducted interviews on the other five individuals. After the first interview, the hunters showed Clawson and Routon where they had left an additional 14 doves in the field. Charges were placed for hunting over the baited field and other related violations.
Labor Day Weekend for District 25 – District 25 includes the counties of Charlotte, Lunenburg, Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick. Labor Day weekend proved very busy for the officers stationed there. On Saturday, August 31, Officers Brandon Harris, Matt Sandy, Shane Wilson, Keith Wilson and Sgt. Jessica Whirley conducted a boating safety checkpoint on Buggs Island Lake. This checkpoint resulted in 31 boats checked, 12 warnings given, and 4 arrests made, including one OUI arrested by Officer Matt Sandy. The subjects blood alcohol content (BAC) was .09.
Officers Blanks, Belotte, Webb and Shane Wilson prepared for and monitored the Sixth Annual Lake-A-Palooza event on Lake Gaston on Saturday and Sunday. This event draws a few hundred boats. Their efforts resulted in 12 arrests on the water and 4 operators tested for alcohol impairment. Officers Harris and Belotte also arrested two individuals for reckless operation on Buggs Island Lake.
Monday, September 1st was also very busy with district officers checking numerous dove and goose hunters. Violations ranged from hunting under the influence and hunting over bait to licenses and HIP number issues. 20 arrests were made throughout the District on Monday with Officers Harris and S. Wilson arresting hunters who were hunting under the influence; Officer Belotte summoned hunters over two baited dove fields, and Officer Sandy detecting violations on Dick Cross WMA resulting in birds being taken out of season. All officers detected license, unplugged shotgun and HIP number violations during their patrols.
Stealing Ginseng from National Forest – CPO’s John Daniel and Stephen Ritchie were contacted, by a concerned sportsman, who saw a person he believed to be digging ginseng, which is a “Threatened Species”, in the National Forest in Amherst County. The officers found a vehicle parked at the edge of the forest and quickly located the man coming back to his car, concealing something under his shirt, which he initially claimed to be his lunch. Further investigation revealed that it was actually a bread bag full of freshly dug ginseng. They had the individual show them where the ginseng was dug. It was all on the National Forest, where it is prohibited to dig; and to further complicate the issue, the season was closed. The officers seized the ginseng and after obtaining the suspect’s information, contacted CPO Luke Fisher, in Rockbridge County, where the suspect resided. He immediately recognized the name from charges he had placed for the same offense the previous year. They all went to the suspect’s house and developed another ginseng case from more evidence located there. The bread bag contained 55 roots and charges are pending in that case while the second investigation is being completed.
Multiple Violations; A Hunting Incident on Opening Day of Dove Season, All in the Same Field – CPO Cory Harbour led a special operation in Campbell County, on the opening day of dove season, along with the assistance of CPO’s Stephen Ritchie, John Daniel, and Sgt. Sonny Nipper. They were targeting fields where numerous people were known to hunt and other fields where known violators were believed to be hunting. Upon arriving at the first large field, they were somewhat overwhelmed at the number of hunters and immediately began detecting violations. After about an hour checking hunters and addressing violations, Officer Harbour was notified that someone in the field had been shot. He promptly called Sgt. Nipper, who then, along with CPO Ritchie, responded to Harbour’s location. They found that the parties involved had just been checked by Officer Harbour while they were sitting in a cornrow looking into the cut crop. The shooter apparently began shooting at a low flying bird and continued shooting as it flew between the two parties striking two people in the victims’ party with several shot pellets. The CPO’s then began conducting a thorough hunting incident investigation while Officer Daniel continued patrolling another large adjoining property on foot. Despite transitioning from patrol to spending a significant portion of their day working a hunting incident, the officers made a dozen arrests for various violations. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the incident.
Crack Down on Trailer Registration Fraud – Throughout the 2019 boating season, Conservation Police Officers Justin Rogers, Nick Sumner, Senior Officer Gavin Fariss, and Sgt. Tim Dooley focused on the use of fraudulent boat trailer registrations throughout the district. The officers located numerous instances of fraud in which permanent trailer tags were being used on boat trailers which were not registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some cases, the subjects were utilizing license plates which were on the trailer at the time of purchase and were still registered to the previous owner. Some subjects were using their own permanent license plates and illegally transferring them between trailers. Others had license plates which were not on file with the DMV and could provide no explanation for how they acquired the plates. Utilizing fraudulent license plates on boat trailers allows the individual to avoid providing proof of ownership in the form of a title which facilitates theft. Trailers in general are stolen at an alarming rate and are usually difficult to track due to insufficient vehicle identification number (VIN) requirements. In summary, between 6/1/19 and 8/30/19, District 24 officers made 10 arrests for fraudulent use of license plates and detected 3 additional violations related to those investigations.
Bear Killed Illegally – On Sept. 3, 2019, Virginia CPO Justin Rogers received information in reference to an illegally killed bear in Buckingham County. According to the informant, the suspect killed the bear on 8/12/19 and made statements to several people as to those facts. Rogers went to the suspect’s residence to interview him regarding the allegations and observed a bear skull hanging from a tree on the suspect’s property. Rogers made contact with the suspect who admitted to killing the bear because it was causing a nuisance on his property by getting into his bird feeders and sheds. The suspect stated he thought it was okay to kill the bear if it was a nuisance. The suspect provided a written statement concerning his actions and Rogers seized the bear skull as evidence. Warrants were obtained and the appropriate charges have been placed on the suspect.
Suspect Apprehended by CPOs, Sentenced – On Sept. 4, 2019, a Cumberland County man was sentenced to 5-years in prison following a stabbing in March. The assailant, who was convicted of unlawful wounding, slicing another man’s arm with a knife and fleeing the scene leading police on a county wide manhunt. Virginia Conservation Police Officers Justin Rogers and Nick Sumner assisted with the search for the suspect who was eventually located traveling on Route 60 in Cumberland County. Deputy Doss of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office initiated a felony traffic stop and Officers Rogers and Sumner arrived shortly afterward to provide assistance. Rogers successfully placed the subject in custody while Doss and Sumner provided cover. Officer Rogers read the suspect his Miranda warning which would later come into play during court proceedings leading the suspect to accept a plea agreement.
Clarksville Watersports Owner receives Award– On August 29, 2019 CPO’s Tyler Blanks and Shane Wilson presented Patrick Rice with an OPS Award and Challenge Coin. Patrick is the owner of Clarksville Watersports and has been an asset to District 25 for several years. Patrick supports the mission of DGIF by providing exceptional service to our patrol boats and assisting in providing diagnostic testing to vessels involved in boat incidents. Patrick understands the responsibility we have on the water and provides a dock for a patrol boat to stay on the water for quick responses to our constituents. District 25 is proud to recognize Patrick for the continuous support he provides to our district.
Boy Scout Troops Receive Instructions from Conservation Police Officers – On September 3, 2019 Virginia CPOs Shane Wilson and K9 CPO Richard Howald paired with Brunswick County Sherriff’s Office at Pleasant Hill Christian Church to conduct a show and tell to Boy Scout Troops/ Pack #132 in Brunswick County. Officer Shane Wilson spoke with the troops about his duties as a Conservation Police Officer and answered any questions they had about CPOs. Virginia Conservation Police K9 Officer Richard Howald conducted a K9 demonstration and showed just how important the K9’s are when assisting CPOs in their investigations. Each scout received a grab bag with stickers, pamphlets, and resources to help them while hunting and fishing. Each of the troops was very appreciative and were very excited to get to interact with their Local and State first responders.
2019 MADD Award Recipient goes to Conservation Police Officer – To honor officers who save lives everyday by taking intoxicated operators off the waterways and highways, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) issue awards to area officers as a way to thank them on behalf of the communities they serve! BUI/DUI arrests are not easy and require a lot of extra work as it takes much longer than a typical arrest. Not letting that stop him from doing what needs to be done, Conservation Police Officer Brett Clawson, arrested 5 BUI’s, 2 DUI’s and 1 DUID (Boating related) between July 2018 and June 30, 2019. Since June, CPO Clawson has already detected and arrested 1 BUI and 1 DUI while on patrol. Congratulations to Conservation Police Officer Brett Clawson on being selected as the 2019 Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
OUI Arrest on Smith Mountain Lake- On September 7, 2019, Officers Dotterer and Morris were on boat patrol on Smith Mountain Lake in the area of Becky’s Creek and observed a pontoon boat operating with docking lights and no navigation lights. The officers conducted a stop on the boat and immediately noticed a trash can full of empty beer cans. The operator admitted to consuming alcohol throughout the evening. Officer Morris conducted field sobriety tests on the subject and determined that he had consumed too much alcohol to operate the boat. He was placed under arrest and transported to the Franklin County Jail where he blew above the legal limit. He was ultimately charged for operating a motorboat under the influence and for failure to display required navigation lights.
CPO’s Help Clean Up the James River – On September 14, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officers Justin Rogers and Nick Sumner assisted with the 20th annual James River Regional Cleanup in Buckingham County. The officers launched their patrol boat and provided safety and security along a 6 ½ mile stretch of the James River between Bent Creek and James River State Park. The low water level made navigation difficult but the officers were able to assist the cleanup crew who were utilizing canoes and kayaks with transporting large items such as tires back to the pickup location. As always, the cleanup was a safe and successful event for everyone involved.
Laser Shot Hunting Simulator is a Big Hit – On September 14, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Kevin Webb and Senior Officer Gavin Fariss participated in the annual Virginia Tech Family and Farm Day in Nottoway County. Officer Webb coordinated the Conservation Police display which featured a Laser Shot Hunting Simulator. The officers had a chance to meet and interact with a great number of participants as their display proved to be one of the most popular stations at the event. The event organizer estimated there were approximately 1,200-1,300 people in attendance and she has already asked the officers to bring the Hunting Simulator back next year.
Stranded Tubers Rescued – On September 15, 2019, at approximately 8:50PM, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Justin Rogers was off duty when he received a call in reference to tubers stranded on the James River in Buckingham County. The group of six was not familiar with the area and had launched from the Howardsville Boat Landing at approximately 1:30PM intent on floating approximately 12 miles to the Scottsville Boat Landing. The subjects were floating on inflatable swimming pool floats, one of which had been punctured. The group had no food or water and found themselves on the river in the dark with no idea where they were. Rogers was able to speak to a member of the group via cell phone and based on her description of the location determined the group was likely in the vicinity of Warren Ferry which meant they had only made it half-way to their intended destination. Rogers responded to Warren Ferry and once on scene activated his emergency lights and siren. The group, which was approximately 200-yards upstream from Warren Ferry, was then able to safely cross the river to Rogers patrol vehicle. After determining there were no immediate medical needs, Rogers transported one member of the group to Scottsville so they could retrieve their vehicle. Thanks to Officer Rogers, disaster was avoided despite a poorly planned floating trip.
Region III – Southwest
Large Dump Site – On August 27, 2019, Senior CPO Gene Wirt found a large dump site in Montgomery County near the DGIF Whitethorne Boat Ramp. Local addresses were found in the trash and Officer Wirt interviewed multiple individuals which led him to a local moving company. The owner of the company was interviewed and admitted to dumping a full trailer load of items at the boat ramp days earlier. The individual stated that he was in a pinch and needed to move items from another house in the area. Magistrate summons was issued to the owner and he was advised to clean up the mess, which was done hours after receiving the summons.
CPO Bicycle Training – On August 29, 2019, CPO’s from Region 3 participated in bicycle training at the Crystal Springs Recreation Area in Wythe County. Instructors Inge and Ostlund explained the importance of safety and how the bike can be integrated into a CPO’s tool box. CPO’s in attendance included Sgt. Koloda, Akers, Arnold, Boyette, Chillcott, Early, Harding, Meade, Sheets, and Shupe.
Goose Shot with Arrow – During the week of Aug 20, 2019, District 32’s officers received numerous complaints in reference to a Canadian goose with an arrow stuck in it at Rural Retreat Lake in Wythe County. Wildlife biologist Shannon Bowling responded and helped to euthanize the bird and found a second dead goose with an arrow in it. The arrows were seized as evidence and the officers started their investigation. On Aug 25, 2019, Officer Akers and Sgt. Keene interviewed a possible witness to the shooting which lead to identifying a possible suspect. Follow up investigation by Officer Akers and Officer Rorabaugh confirmed the witness’s account of the event and a confession from the suspect. The suspect was at Rural Retreat Lake fishing and shot three geese with a bow and arrow because he was bored. Multiple charges are pending.
10th Annual Gene Ball Memorial Youth Day – On Aug 24, 2019, CPOs Akers, Rorabaugh and K9 Officer Billings attended the 10th Annual Gene Ball Memorial Youth Day in Wythe County. This event brings the youth out for a day of enjoying the outdoors. There were several different stations that the youth were able to rotate through including skeet, long range shooting, air rifle, pistol, muzzleloading and tree stand safety. The day started out cloudy with rain but cleared off and turned out to be a great day. The kids were treated to lunch and then got to go fishing in one of the stocked ponds on the property.
OPS Challenge Coin Presented – On August 26, 2019, Senior CPO James Brooks presented Joe Musick with O.P.S. Challenge Coin # 60. The presentation took place at Mr. Musick’s Sporting Goods store in Cedar Bluff. Mr. Musick, recently retired, assisted with Hunter Education for over thirty years in Tazewell County. He routinely opened his indoor archery range to the youth of Richlands, Cedar Bluff and surrounding areas, promoting safe hunting and The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Mr. Musick was also a resource for over three decades to local Conservation Police Officers, assisting them in a number of ways to curb illegal hunting and fishing activity in the area. The award was presented with friends and family in attendance.
Bland County Fair/Safety Day – On August 31, 2019, CPO Chillcott showed off the DGIF Special Events trailer at the Bland County fairgrounds while participating in the Bland County Fair/ Safety Day. Officer Chillcott answered numerous questions regarding hunting, fishing, trapping and boating. In addition, Officer Chillcott handed out literature to community members to help them learn about DGIF and Virginia wildlife. Officer Chillcott also presented several youngsters with DGIF sticker badges. They were a big hit with the children and their parents.
Tazewell Kid’s Fishing Day – On September 7, 2019, Senior CPO George Shupe assisted the Town of Tazewell Police Department with their annual kids fishing day event. Fifty children attended the event in the Town of Tazewell with the participants and their families enjoying an afternoon of fishing, food, and door prizes.
Public Hunter Education Class in Smyth County – On September 7, 2019 CPO Tyler Sheets assisted volunteer Hunter Education Instructors with a Public Hunter Education Class in Smyth County. There were a total of thirteen students in attendance with ages ranging from children to adults. Officer Sheets gave an informative Law and Regulation talk to the class with emphasis placed on the changes to both law and regulations in effect for the upcoming 2019-20 hunting season.
“Be On the Lookout” Ends with Drugs Found – On August 31, 2019 Senior CPO James Brooks responded to the Town of Richlands Police Department’s issuance of a BOL for a motor vehicle related to possession of narcotics. Officer Brooks located the vehicle meeting the description given in the BOL, at a residence in an area of Tazewell County. Senior Officer Brooks began a brief interview with the suspects encountered, who met descriptions given as to the occupants of the suspect vehicle. One of the suspects being interviewed produced syringes from his pants pocket. During the course of his interview, Officer Brooks gathered information regarding further drugs in the residence where the truck was located. Officer Brooks obtained a search warrant for the premises where other narcotics and paraphernalia were ultimately found and seized. In concluding the incident, three subjects were charged with misdemeanor possession of illegal drugs on scene, with more charges to follow, after consultation with Tazewell County Commonwealths’ Attorney’s Office; based on chemical analysis of items seized in the incident.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Congratulations in Order – On August 27, 2019, CPOs Daniel Eller and Sgt. Isaac Boulanger attended an awards ceremony in Fredericksburg, VA, which is hosted annually by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. Leaders and staff from multiple agencies in the area were present for this event, as many officers, detectives, and Fire/EMS personnel received awards ranging from excellence in criminal investigations to heroism. Officer Daniel Eller was recognized and received an award for heroism for his recent actions this summer, which saved the life of a local veterinarian who had suffered a heart attack while operating her vehicle in Orange County.
Caroline County Boat Accident – On August 25, 2019, District 45 CPOs Sumpter, Eller, Garrett, and Quarles responded to Caroline County to investigate a reported boat accident. Initial reports indicated that a boat had capsized and that one individual was responsive and in the water, while a second individual was missing. District 45 officers were able to coordinate search and investigative efforts that involved multiple agencies and resources. On August 27, 2019, officers from Districts 45, 16, 11, and K9 Officer Cramer recovered the body of the missing victim and provided closure to the family. The investigation is ongoing, but District 45 would like to thank Paige Pearson, as well as CPOs Greg Hall, Roy Morris, Cameron Dobyns, Matt Dean, and K9 Officer Cramer, for their dedicated assistance. They provided considerable time and resources throughout the initial investigation and search efforts, which greatly alleviated the workload of District 45 officers and helped bring closure to the victim’s family.
Catching and Keeping Undersized Bass – On Sunday, August 18, 2019, Senior CPO BJ McGuire received a call that a subject been catching and keeping undersized bass at Lake Shenandoah a lake owned by DGIF. The complainant provided a picture of the suspect’s license plate. McGuire used the license plate information to obtain a name and an address for the suspect. Through a series of questions, McGuire determined this was the suspect and asked to see the fish he caught at Lake Shenandoah. They went inside to the kitchen sink where there were 3 bass, 1 crappie, and 1 catfish. All three of the bass were well under the 18-inch minimum size limit for the body of water. A summons was issued for possession of undersized bass.
Eye in the Sky – On September 2, 2019, Senior K9 Officer Billhimer contacted Sgt. Ham about a group of dove hunters he observed while enjoying a few hours of off-duty flying in his personal airplane. The field was located in Rockingham County. Officer Ostlund and Sgt. Ham responded to the area to perform compliance checks of the group of hunters. Senior K9 Officer Billhimer alerted the officers to several more fields he observed hunters in while he was flying. In total, Officer Ostlund issued summonses for 4 unplugged shotguns, 1 failure to have a license, and 12 warnings for other violations. Having an extra set of eyes in the sky made finding the dove hunters on an opening day much quicker for the officers.
Arrests Made on a Full Stomach – On September 3, 2019, District 42 Conservation Police Officers were walking back to the regional office in Verona to continue their monthly planning meeting following lunch when Senior Officer Kester observed a male acting suspicious along a wood line surrounding a mobile home community. After watching the subject hiding behind trees and running through open areas, the district decided to investigate the suspicious activity and address the trespassing concerns. The officers approached the subject that was crouched down in the woods from all directions to prevent him from fleeing. The subject was detained and methamphetamine was found where the subject was crouched down. The subject was also wanted through Augusta County Court for a failure to appear capias and was subsequently arrested. A social services worker was at the trailer belonging to the girlfriend of the subject. When the girlfriend asked about the whereabouts of the car the arrested subject was driving, the arrested subject provided the keys to his girlfriend and explained that the car was parked across the street. Officers obtained consent to search from the girlfriend who was the registered owner of the vehicle. When the officers accompanied the girlfriend to the vehicle, a female passenger was in the vehicle. The other female passenger exited the vehicle and consented to have her purse searched. Smoking devices with probable methamphetamine traces were removed from the purse. The female passenger was subsequently arrested for possession of methamphetamine. Officers from the district were eventually able to finish their district planning meeting, but it extended much later than originally planned.
Kid’s Fishing Day at Lake Frederick – On Saturday, September 7th, District 41 Conservation Police Officers enjoyed great weather while participating in multiple outreach events in Frederick County and the City of Winchester. CPO Derrick Kekic assisted with a Kids Fishing Day at Lake Frederick, where 22 kids enjoyed fishing at the DGIF-owned Lake. Greg Sanner, owner of Gregory’s Bait & Tackle at Lake Frederick, organized the event with an outpouring of help from the community. Sheriff Lenny Millholland and Deputy A.J. Kendra attended the event as well and provided their guidance in helping the kids fish. Dedicated Lake Frederick anglers brought their boats to provide their experience and fishing opportunities for the kids. The big fish for the day was a 21”/ 5 lb. largemouth bass! Everyone had a great time and enjoyed a day of fishing. A special thanks to Firenza Pizza for providing lunch, RC Bottling for providing drinks, and Jake’s Bait & Tackle for providing lures and bait.
Boy Scouts Receive Hunter Education Course – On September 7th, 2019, CPO Owen Heine discussed hunting laws & regulations with close to 50 scouts and scout leaders at the Boy Scout Camp at Camp Rock Enon in Gore, VA. This Hunter Education Course was scheduled for the scouts and gave them the opportunity to meet a Conservation Police Officer and ask questions. CPO Heine provided information and fielded many questions about Virginia’s hunting laws & regulations. He also spoke with many of the attendees following his wildlife law talk. This year marked Camp Rock Enon’s 75th Anniversary, and this course marked another positive experience in the Camp’s scouting legacy.
Public Safety Fair in Winchester – On September 7th, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Carl Martin participated in the 14th-Annual Winchester Public Safety Fair at Jim Barnett Park. This is a free event sponsored by the Winchester Medical Center and the Winchester Police Department with well over 50 agencies and organizations attending. This is a great event and an excellent opportunity to meet and socialize with the community. Sgt. Martin set up an exhibit to provide information and discussion about hunting, fishing, boating, and endangered/threatened species. He enjoyed hearing hunting and fishing stories and seeing photos from their day afield. DGIF looks forward to next year’s safety fair!
Fluvanna Community Safety Day – On September 7, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officers Jacob Chaffin and Chris Heberling participated in the annual Fluvanna Community Safety Day at Pleasant Grove Park in Fluvanna County. The officers distributed valuable information promoting safe recreation in the woods and on the water. CPO patrol vehicles and boats were on display, kids were able to test their angling skills with a fishing game, and adults were able to ask questions regarding hunting, fishing, and boating. Overall it was a successful event and a fun time was had by all.
Pot Smoking Raccoon Leads to Felony Charges – On September 8, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Caleb Manspile received a call about a captive raccoon living as a pet at a residence in Rockbridge County. When the officer arrived on scene, he was greeted by an adult female who lived at the residence. CPO Manspile asked if there was a raccoon in the house and the woman responded that there was and that she had been keeping it as a pet for over a year. Officer Manspile asked for permission to enter the residence and search for the animal and the woman consented. Almost immediately after entering the residence, the officer observed narcotics paraphernalia in plain sight, a glass pipe used for smoking methamphetamine. When asked about the item, the woman stated it was hers and gave it to the officer. Manspile asked for consent to search the rest of the house and again, it was given. At this point CPO Manspile contacted Sgt. Williams for assistance. When Sgt. Williams arrived, Officer Manspile began his search for additional narcotics violations and Sgt. Williams searched for the raccoon. Multiple glass devices used for smoking methamphetamine, and others used for smoking marijuana were located. A small bag containing white crystals, that later field tested positive for methamphetamine, was also seized. Sgt. Williams found the raccoon, running free in an upstairs bedroom, playing with a metal pipe, commonly used for smoking marijuana. Charges will be placed on four individuals for possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, driving on a suspended license, and illegal possession of wildlife.
September Spotlighters Caught – On Monday, September 9, 2019, CPO Corrado received a call from a citizen about a dead deer with antlers cut off in their field. CPO Corrado inspected the deer and quickly realized it had not been killed by a car, but it had been spotlighted by a poacher. On Tuesday, September 10, 2019, CPO’s Corrado and Kekic sat on two different fields in the area of the original call. Just before midnight, CPO Corrado saw a car slowly moving down the road and saw a light being cast upon a field. CPO Corrado advised CPO Kekic of the situation, and he quickly responded to the scene. Upon stopping the vehicle, the CPO’s found two adults in the vehicle with a spotlight and cross bow. The officers were able to connect the occupants of the vehicle to the original call and to other deer that had been poached in District 41. Appropriate charges will be placed.