March 11-24, 2020
To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.
Region I – Tidewater
Spotlighting Suspect Hiding Out, Eventually Caught – On November 28, 2019, CPO Nevel received a call from the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office dispatch in reference to someone spotlighting and shooting deer. Officer Nevel responded to the scene and interviewed the witness. The witness had observed a subject shooting at deer, from a vehicle, from the state-maintained road onto posted property. The witness was able to provide Nevel a picture of the suspect vehicle and the license plate tag number. Nevel ran the tag number and it came back expired and registered to a different vehicle. The following morning, Nevel located a dead deer in a wooded area adjoining the field that had been shot. Over the next few days a suspect was developed and Nevel began searching for him. She learned that the subject knew that she was looking for him and that he was hiding out and staying with different people.
On February 28, 2020 Nevel received a tip that the subject was working with a local commercial waterman. Officer Bumgarner and Officer Nevel responded to the area in hopes of locating the suspect, but the suspect was nowhere to be found. As the officers were driving through town, they noticed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle parked at a local grocery store. The officers conducted surveillance on the vehicle until the suspect exited the store and drove off. They followed the subject to a residence where they contacted him and conducted an interview about the event that took place on Thanksgiving night. When provided the evidence, the subject admitted to shooting at a deer from his vehicle, shooting after sunset and trespassing on posted property. He also stated that the license plates on his vehicle were not registered to his vehicle. He admitted that he had stolen the registration stickers for the license plate off of another vehicle. The officers also noticed that the vehicle was displaying a fictitious state inspection sticker, which the suspect admitted that he had made. Appropriate charges have been made.
Region II – Southside
Missing Dog Leads to Trapping Violation – On February 14, 2020, CPO Isaac Boulanger received a call in reference to a dog that had gone missing for three days before it was located stuck in a foothold trap on an adjacent property line. Officer Boulanger located the trap and placed a camera to monitor activity. Over the next fourteen days, there were no signs of human activity. On March 14, 2020, he made contact with the adjacent landowner who admitted to his “negligence” in not checking the trap daily as required by law. The appropriate charges were placed.
Trapping Violation Identified – On February 23, 2020, CPO Eric Dotterer received a call in reference to a dog that had been caught in a foothold trap in Franklin County. Officer Dotterer located twelve traps on an adjacent property, which were baited with cut up rabbits, squirrels, and a cheeseburger. The traps were linked to an individual who admitted to placing them to catch coyotes. The subject was charged for setting traps in a manner not permitted by law.
Assistance Given to North Carolina Wildlife Officers – On March 6, 2020, CPO Bruce Young assisted the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) with an illegal trapping case. Officer Young visited a local outdoors store and obtained records indicating the suspect sold 16 raccoons, 10 beavers, 2 coyotes, 1 grey fox, and 1 red fox pelt. The documentation was forwarded to the NCWRC, resulting in multiple charges placed against the suspect.
Predator Tournament Violation – On March 7, 2020, CPO Eric Dotterer observed an article on social media in reference to a dog that was found, in a Pittsylvania County creek, with a wooden block zip tied in its mouth. Officer Dotterer contacted Pittsylvania Animal Control and learned the wooden block was engraved with a number and date. He immediately recognized the date being associated with a recent predator hunting tournament. Through further investigation, Officer Dotterer linked the wooden block to an individual who participated in the tournament. A records check indicated the suspect harvested a coyote and a bobcat during the tournament. He contacted the suspect who admitted to dumping the carcasses in the creek and failing to check the bobcat as required by law. The appropriate charges were placed.
River Rescue – On March 10, 2020, CPO Bruce Young was checking fishermen along the Smith River, in Henry County, when he observed fresh tire tracks veering off the roadway into the river. Officer Young located a Nissan Pathfinder partially submerged in the water and, and with assistance from a citizen, was able to remove the driver. A second vehicle, which had been involved in the incident, was located a short distance away. The driver of the Pathfinder was transported to the hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries and the investigation was turned over to Virginia State Police.
Observation Leads to Violations – On March 19, 2020, CPO Kevin Webb was on foot patrol on the Nottoway River, in Lunenburg County, when he observed two individuals sitting behind a bridge pillar, of the Route 49 bridge, drinking. Officer Webb watched them and observed them throwing empty cans into the river. He approached closer and was able to take a position where he detected the smell of marijuana. At that point, he made contact. Appropriate charges were placed for the various violations.
Closed Season Turkey Hunters Nabbed – CPO Nick Belotte received information that a known poacher in Charlotte County had been turkey hunting and had harvested a turkey on March 14th. On March 19th, Officer Belotte and Officer Matt Sandy patrolled an area where he is known to hunt. They located his vehicle off the roadway on a hunt club road. The officers worked together to observe the vehicle and surrounding area. Approximately 2 hours later, two subjects returned to the vehicle. One was holding a shotgun and both were wearing turkey vests. The Officers gained confessions from both parties that they were turkey hunting. Appropriate charges were placed.
Search Yields Game Law Violation – On February 12, 2020, CPO Kevin Webb was following up on a possible season violation from this past hunting season, that he had located while checking GoOutdoors, when he found where an individual had checked in a button buck on November 29, 2019, which was not an antlerless day. He questioned the individual about the deer. A short conversation established the fact that button bucks were considered antlerless deer and could only be taken on either sex hunting days. The appropriate charge was placed.
Region III – Southwest
Two Wild and Crazy Guys Causing Trouble at Norton Reservoir Charged – On March 13, 2020 Virginia CPO Derrick Rickels and Senior Officer Daniel Ross were on a plain clothes patrol at Norton Reservoir in Wise County. Both officers observed two males being very loud and throwing what appeared to alcoholic beverage containers off of the spillway. Officer Rickels contacted Officer Meade and K-9 Officer VanDyke to assist with a uniformed presence. Before they arrived Officer Rickels and Ross observed the same two men get in kayaks and paddle out onto the lake. They began throwing large rocks into the water in front of fishermen on the dam. They started paddling toward each other and rammed the kayaks together. The operator of the green kayak paddled close to the bank and became entangled in the line of a fisherman. Both men made it to shore and were detained until uniformed officers were on scene. Officer Ross offered both men a PBT. They were below the legal limit. Several charges were placed.
CPOs and K9 Avery Present at Boys STEM Conference – On March 12, 2020, Senior CPOs James Brooks, George Shupe, K9 CPO Mark Vandyke, and CPO Matthew Arnold attended the Boys STEM conference at the Appalachian School of Pharmacy in Buchanan County. Over 300 middle school aged boys attended this event, where they were able to learn about multiple different jobs in Virginia. The officers presented to three different groups for 45 minutes each, and had three different sections per session. Beginning with what a Conservation Police Officer is and their job roles, CPO Arnold presented the kids with different photos that pertain to CPOs and their roles. He fielded multiple questions by the children. K9 Officer Mark Vandyke spoke about the roles of DGIF’s K9s and the multitude of uses they provide. Each class was able to interact with K9 “Avery” directly and had multiple questions for Officer Vandyke. Lastly, each session was concluded with Senior Officer James Brooks giving lessons on different furbearers in Virginia. This hands-on activity allowed the kids to feel different pelts including bear, rabbit, muskrat, beaver, and various other furbearers. Officer Brooks also explained the different aging techniques for bear and other animals by the wear of the animal’s teeth. The students came from three different counties to hear about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at the college and the DGIF officers were happy to educate and respond to the student’s curiosity.
CPO Assists in Trout in the Schools Program – On March 12, 2020, CPO Joel Early met with 7th grade students from Glade Spring Middle School for a continuing Trout in the Schools Program the students have been involved with. Officer Early assisted the Agricultural Science class with transporting and releasing the trout fingerlings that were hatched and raised by the class. The trout were released into Wolfe Creek, a Special Regulation Trout Fishing Water, located within the Town of Abingdon in Washington County.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
CPO’s Assist VSP in Search for Subject on Afton Mountain – On March 7, 2020, CPO Chaffin, Senior CPO Kester, Senior CPO Dobbs, and Sgt. Ferguson responded to assist VA State Police in the search for a subject who had fled on foot from a Trooper on I-64 on Afton Mountain in Albemarle County. The subject, who had a history of mental health issues, entered an occupied residence nearby, causing the residents to flee. Officers quickly responded to the residence and established a perimeter. The residents of the home advised officers that there were unsecured firearms in the house. Over the next three hours, the subject was observed moving around inside the house, but he would not respond to officers’ attempts to establish contact. Shortly after sunset, the subject was observed silhouetted in front of a window with a rifle in his hands. Albemarle Police Department’s Tac Team moved an armored vehicle to the front porch and gave commands over the PA system. The subject put the rifle down, exited the house, and was taken into custody. Thanks to a quick response and teamwork between the CPOs, VSP, Albemarle PD, Augusta Sheriff’s Office, and Nelson SO, no one was injured and the incident ended peacefully.
DUI in Greene County Turns into Felony– On March 4, 2020, CPO Goff was on patrol in the area of South River Road and Madison Road in Greene County when he noticed a vehicle in the north bound lane of Madison Road with no headlights operating after dark. He attempted to stop the vehicle and when making the turn from Madison Road on to South River Road the vehicle went into the oncoming lane and almost into the ditch. The driver corrected the vehicle and pulled to the right side of the road. The driver was asked if she had anything to drink. She said she had a half bottle of wine about 2 hours prior. Due to the driver’s lack of balance and coordination, she was unable to do several field sobriety tests. The driver lost her balance and stumbled a few times attempting to complete the tests. The driver was placed under arrest for driving under the influence. The arrested person was transported to Greene County Sheriff’s Office for a breath test with the result being .15, almost twice the legal limit. The arrestee was transported to the Central Virginia Regional Jail where she was held for Driving Under the Influence and Failing to Drive With Headlights After Sunset. When searched at the jail, she was given additional felony charges for having suspected cocaine secreted in a sensitive area of her person. The drugs were found during a search by jail personnel.
Fisherman Arrested for “Old” Warrant – On Sunday March 16, 2020, CPO Hatmaker marked on duty and began to patrol around Lake Anna for fishermen. He observed three individuals fishing from the shore near a bridge. Officer Hatmaker made contact with the fishermen and checked their fishing licenses. One individual grew impatient and didn’t like the fact that Officer Hatmaker was checking the individuals for warrants. After fishing licenses were checked, Officer Hatmaker drove around the corner where they had parked. DGIF dispatch advised that one of the individuals was wanted out of the Louisa Circuit Court for two counts of failure to appear on his arraignment for possession of cocaine. Officer Hatmaker radioed Louisa Sheriff’s Office for assistance. While waiting, one of the individuals walked back to the vehicle spotting Officer Hatmaker. Thinking that the fisherman would go back and tell the wanted subject that the officer was waiting around the corner, Officer Hatmaker decided to go back and make contact with the wanted subject. Officer Hatmaker placed the wanted subject in custody and took him to the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office where the warrants were obtained. While reviewing the warrant, Officer Hatmaker noticed that the warrant appeared old. The warrant had been issued July of 1999. The subject told Officer Hatmaker that he had been stopped numerous times in the past but the officers never checked to see if he was wanted. The subject was later turned over to the Central Regional Virginia Jail where he was held on bond.
Subjects Fabricate Story to Appear as Hunting Incident – On Mar. 17, 2020, CPO Heberling responded to a reported hunting incident in Fluvanna Co. The caller reported that a subject was attempting to shoot a beaver and someone had been shot. An investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office, and it was determined that the subjects had fabricated the story that was told to the initial responding units. The incident was not hunting related. The individuals involved had been recklessly handling a shotgun resulting in an accidental discharge that struck the victim. His injuries were not life threatening. Further investigation will be handled by the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office.
CPOs Are First Responders to Heart Attack Patient in Remote Mountainous Location – On March 19, 2020, Special Agent Paul Inge and CPO Jacob Chaffin received information from Albemarle County ECC of a possible cardiac arrest on a remote trail on the North Fork of the Moormans River. That area is mountainous with steep and often rough terrain. The officers responded via a fire road access from Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. Knowing the area well, the officers drove down the trail in an attempt to locate the victim as county units responded from below. Cell service was extremely limited in the mountainous area, so the exact location of the victim was very difficult to determine. The original caller could not be reached to verify information. The trail was extremely treacherous due to past flooding and downed trees, and the officers had to stop and clear the trail a few times before reaching a locked private gate. The officers proceeded in on foot, carrying their medical gear and AED approximately one-half mile down the trail before locating the victim. The officers were the first two responders on scene and quickly assessed the victim, who was now conscious with labored breathing. AED pads were applied in case the victim went into cardiac arrest. SA Inge contacted Albemarle ECC and gave the victim’s precise location, and advised of the most efficient routes to guide in EMS and county police units who had deployed a UTV. Because of the terrain and remote location, the officers and a paramedic had to carry the victim back up the trail to the patrol vehicle where the UTV was staged. The victim was loaded into the UTV and transported to an awaiting ambulance. The officers’ quick thinking and knowledge of the area were crucial in locating and extracting the victim.
Subject Found with Fresh Deer Out of Season – On Tuesday March 17, 2020, CPO Hatmaker received information from Caroline Sheriff’s Office regarding deer that were possibly shot. Officer Hatmaker arrived at an address in Caroline where sheriff’s deputies were executing a search warrant. Several antlered deer heads were observed on the property that appeared to have been killed within the past few weeks. The suspect who was already in the sheriff’s custody, was interviewed by Officers Hatmaker and Sumpter. He told the officers that he “found them” alongside the road. No record of deer had been checked in, no hunting licenses had been purchased, and deer season has been out since January. After further investigation, deer meat and heads were seized, and the suspect was charged with several game violations.
Officer Water Survival “Train the Trainer” Delivered to DGIF and Partner Officers – In the week of March 9-13, the NASBLA Officer Water Survival Train the Trainer course was delivered to DGIF officers and City of Hampton MERT team members. This 5 day/ 40 hour course provided these maritime law enforcement officers the skills to survive in and on the water. This course prepared these officers for an unexpected immersion into the water. A key element of this course was the preparation of participants to become proficient in water survival skills and awareness on how to modify both duty and survival equipment to increase their chances of survival. The train the trainer component prepared our instructors with the skills needed to share this training with the rest of DGIF’s officers.
CPO Justin Chambers took the lead on this project and has been attending the necessary training and acquiring the equipment to deliver this course to the officers. With DGIF being a NASBLA accredited agency and CPO Chambers being a credentialed instructor, this course was delivered tuition free.