July 29 – August 25, 2020
To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers’ (CPOs, or 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 II – Southside
Assist with Arrest of Wanted Subjects – On July 22, 2020, CPO Joe Williams heard a request for assistance on his Roanoke County Radio. The requesting officer had stopped three wanted individuals who were occupying a stolen vehicle. CPO Williams, who was the closest available officer, provided backup while the subjects were arrested and assisted with transport due the number of arrestees.
Intoxicated Boat Operator Arrested – On July 24, 2020, CPOs Joe Williams and Brett Clawson were on boat patrol on Smith Mountain Lake when they observed a vessel operating after sunset without the required navigation lights. They stopped the vessel and observations led Officer Williams to initiate field sobriety tests. The operator performed poorly and was arrested for operating under the influence. The operator was transported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office where he registered a 0.10 BAC. The appropriate charges were placed.
Erratic Driving Leads to DUI Arrest – On July 24, 2020, CPO Brett Clawson was on patrol in Franklin County when he observed the vehicle traveling in front of him cross over into the oncoming lane of travel and remain partially in the oncoming lane for a considerable distance. Officer Clawson followed the vehicle into a nearby parking lot and observed the vehicle strike a concrete parking block. Officer Clawson conducted a traffic stop and based on his observations, initiated field sobriety tests. The driver was arrested for driving under the influence and transported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office where he refused to submit a breath sample. The appropriate charges were placed.
Reckless Operation of a PWC Causes Injury – On July 25, 2020, CPOs Joe Williams and Shane Wilson responded to a boating incident on Smith Mountain Lake. Based on evidence and statements, they determined the individuals involved were operating separate jet skis. The operator of one jet ski failed to follow proper navigation rules, which resulted in a collision. The operator of the second ski was knocked into the water and suffered an abrasion and possibly a concussion. The appropriate charge was placed against the offending operator.
CPO Aids with Stop and Arrest – On July 31, 2020, CPO Joe Williams was on patrol when he heard Detectives from the Salem Police Department request assistance. Officer Williams responded and assisted with a traffic stop in which the operator was arrested for robbing a hotel earlier in the day.
PWC Operator Arrested for Operating Under the Influence – On August 1, 2020, CPOs Michael Morris and Joe Williams were on boat patrol on Smith Mountain Lake when they observed a personal watercraft operating after sunset. They stopped the vessel and observations led Officer Morris to initiate field sobriety tests. The operator performed poorly and was arrested for operating under the influence. The operator was transported to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Officer where he registered a 0.12 BAC. The appropriate charges were placed.
Stop Yields DUI Operator – On August 1, 2020, at approximately 10:05 pm, CPO Kevin Webb was traveling on Highway 460 entering the Town of Crewe when a truck passed him at a high rate of speed. The vehicle continued at the speed, which he estimated to be approximately 80mph, through marked 55, 45, and 35 MPH Zones. Officer Webb initiated a traffic stop. Upon speaking with the operator, Officer Webb observed the grip portion of a handgun tucked between the seats beside the operator’s right leg. He also later located a second concealed handgun. Officer Webb detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage and administered field sobriety tests. Based upon the results, Officer Webb arrested him for DUI, possession of concealed weapons and reckless driving. The blood alcohol content was a 0.12 BAC.
Reckless Driver at County Fishing Lake – On August 2, 2020, CPO Nick Sumner was patrolling the Sandy River Reservoir in Prince Edward County when he observed a vehicle enter the parking area. Shortly thereafter, Officer Sumner heard a loud screech consistent with a vehicle doing a donut. He initiated a traffic stop and placed the appropriate charge.
Assistance Provided with Combative Subject – On August 9, 2020, Senior CPO Gavin Fariss overheard a call on his county radio in reference to an erratic driver in Prince Edward County. CPO Fariss located the vehicle at a local convenience store. A Prince Edward County Deputy arrived on scene and CPO Fariss assisted with contacting the subject who was now inside the convenience store. The subject was heavily intoxicated and became verbally combative which led to her arrest by the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office.
CPOs Assist with Psychological Crisis – On August 13, 2020, CPOs Brett Clawson, James Hale, and Shane Wilson assisted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police with an armed subject who was experiencing a psychological crisis. The CPOs secured the perimeter while a sheriff’s deputy and state trooper contacted the individual. The subject eventually turned himself in without incident and was taken into custody.
A Case of Mistaken Identity – On August 12, 2020, CPO Shane Wilson received a call in reference to a subject who had shot and killed a federally protected bird. Officer Wilson met with the suspect who explained he thought a hawk had been killing his chickens and so he saw a bird in a nearby tree and shot it. Officer Wilson viewed the carcass, which he identified as a turkey vulture. Officer Wilson explained the regulations pertaining to federally protected species and placed the appropriate charge.
Two Boaters Arrested for OUI – On August 15, 2020, CPOs Joe Williams and Keith Wilson received a call in reference to two intoxicated subjects who were at a marina on Smith Mountain Lake. The officers responded via patrol boat and contacted the subjects. Through investigation, they determined the two subjects had arrived via a motorboat in which each had a role in operating. Field sobriety tests were initiated and each subject performed poorly. Both individuals were placed under arrest for operating under the influence and transported to the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office where they registered BACs of 0.14 and 0.15 respectively.
Warning Goes Unheeded and Leads to Arrest – On the evening of August 14, 2020, Senior Officer Brandon Harris was patrolling a DWR-owned public lake in Halifax County. He observed an adult male and adult female fishing at the boat ramp and approached to inspect their licenses. While inspecting their licenses and creel, Officer Harris noticed items that lead him to believe they had been consuming alcohol. He explained to them that alcohol use was prohibited at DWR-owned or controlled lakes and pointed out nearby signage that stated as much. He verbally warned and advised them to discontinue consuming or displaying alcohol while at the lake.
After inspecting individuals at other locations along the lake, Officer Harris returned to confirm that they had not heeded his warning. He was surprised to see that they were continuing to consume alcoholic beverages. He reestablished contact and advised that he would be issuing them summonses for the violation.
Neither individual could produce proper identification, thus they verbally provided their pertinent information. They were less than cooperative, but ultimately signed the summonses and left the property. Suspicious of the information he had received, Officer Harris recorded the license plate of the vehicle as it drove away. He reviewed the DMV information and discovered that both subjects had provided false information for the summonses and signed them using false names. Appropriate charges are being pursued against both individuals.
Post-season Deer Poaching Investigation – Always being the investigator, Officer Cory Harbour was monitoring Facebook after the 2019-2020 hunting season when he noticed posts from a known violator. Officer Harbour initiated an investigation into the suspicious social media posts by reviewing licensing and harvest records, and ultimately obtaining a search warrant for Facebook. Officer Harbour interviewed the suspect in early summer, but the seasoned violator denied everything, claimed that the deer posted were from 2018, and were only meant to mess with his friends. He did however; admit to not having a license. Nearly a month later, Officer Harbour returned to re-interview the suspect. During this interview, he confessed to killing two “scrub 8 point bucks” with a bow, gutting and skinning them in the woods, and carrying the meat out in a backpack. During the course of the interview, the suspect also admitted to trespassing in other areas of Campbell County. The appropriate charges have been placed. Additionally, Officer Harbour will be requesting that his hunting license/privilege be revoked since this repeat offender has had convictions within the past three years.
Region III – Southwest
CPO Conducts Impressive, Impromptu Fishing and Boating Program – On July 24, 2020, CPO Joel Early was conducting a boat patrol on Laurel Bed Lake within Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management area in Russell County. He was approached by a member of a local church group with a request to conduct a boating and fishing program for members of the church youth group, who were part of an outdoors outreach group from the Haysi area of Dickenson County. The group consisted of five youth members and four adults. Officer Early accepted the impromptu request, and with the group gathered in the outdoor setting and maintaining social distancing guidelines, Officer Early gave a presentation on boating safety and the proper use of kayaks. A segment of the presentation also involved a discussion on the different species of game fish that could be found within Laurel Bed Lake as well as Big Tumbling Creek and the different techniques best utilized while fishing within the WMA. The group asked many questions and were appreciative of the time Officer Early spent in giving the requested presentation on such short notice.
Deer Taken Out of Season – On August 5, 2020 CPO Sergeant James Hale received a call from a local town officer advising that he had just witnessed someone killing a deer beside the road with a shotgun. The suspect had also shot at another deer. Sgt. Hale was less than a quarter of a mile away and was able to be on scene with the town officer quickly. During the course of investigation, it was found that the suspect had killed the deer with a 12 gauge shotgun using #5 shot at approximately 42 yards. The suspect stated, “I know a shotgun won’t reach that far.” He had killed a button buck on the property of another, during closed season without a kill permit. During the course of investigation, Sgt. Hale also found that the suspect had been shooting at the deer the day before. Multiple charges were placed.
Stand-off Ends with Suspect in Custody – On August 7, 2020, Senior CPO Daniel Ross and CPO Derrick Rickels assisted the Scott County Sheriff’s Office with an armed, barricaded subject. A deputy had attempted to stop a vehicle and one of the occupants displayed a firearm and made suicidal comments. He then drove off and subsequently wrecked in a ditch next to an elementary school. Officers attempted to negotiate with the suspect to no avail. The Virginia State Police (VSP) tactical team arrived and took the suspect into custody. The standoff lasted about three hours.
CPOs Take Part in Multi-Agency Drill – On Thursday August 6, 2020, CPOs from the Region 3 tracking team took part of a joint training with Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC). The training consisted of a mock prisoner escape in Grayson County. Region 3 tracking team and VSP as well as DOC worked together in a mock escape drill at Matthews State Forest where two prisoners escaped from a work crew and fled on foot. The agencies worked with multiple K9s accompanied by tracking team members and the Department of Corrections emergency response team. The first subject was tracked and captured within two hours of the initial fleeing and the second subject was located within 5 miles from the last known location. The Department of Corrections utilized drones to assist in locating the subjects. This multi-agency drill provided officers an opportunity to work together with other agencies and determine the strengths and areas that may need improving while creating a familiarity with each agencies role and better preparing them when an actual incident occurs.
Continuing Investigation After CPOs Observe Trespassers – On Saturday August 8, 2020, Sgt. Koloda and CPO Rutledge were traveling home from a New River kayak patrol when the pair observed two UTVs trespassing on private property where district officers have had previous trespassing complaints. Both officers attempted to make contact with the trespassers by following them on foot on the large property, but the UTVs exited on a different trail on the opposite end of the property. As the officers were returning to their patrol vehicle, they investigated a heavily worn trail. The pair located a cleared area that contained 15-20 marijuana plants actively growing. The investigation continues.
CPOs Rescue Kayakers During Extreme Water Conditions – On August 8, 2020 CPO Sergeant Keene and Officers Harris and Boyette responded to a request for assistance for a kayaker who was missing after flipping their kayak in the Molly Shoals section of the New River. While responding, the officers learned that the kayaker had been located alongside a cliff on the river but they still needed to respond to rescue the individual due to the extreme water conditions. Independence volunteer fire department had arrived on scene and decided not to launch their boat due to the swift and dangerous water conditions. The officers launched their patrol boat from the Route 21 boat ramp and proceeded up river until they located the missing kayaker under a cliff next to a rough section of the river with multiple rocks and shoals. The kayaker was safe, wearing his life jacket, and waiting to be picked up. The officers made a pass to assess the situation and proceeded back down river through the rocky shoals. Sgt Keene updated Grayson County dispatch and was notified of a second individual that had lost their kayak and was floating down river through the shoals without a life jacket. Shortly thereafter, Sgt. Keene had a visual on the male individual floating through the rapids and then suddenly stopped. Water was pouring around the man and it appeared he was possibly holding onto a rock in the middle of the current. Only his head was visible above the water. Officer Harris steered the boat into the shoals just below the man and Officer Boyette and Sgt Keene prepared to pull him on board. Officer Boyette got into the water with the man to assist him and learned that his arm was stuck between two rocks. Officer Boyette was unable to free his arm due to the strong and fast current pushing against the man’s body. Sgt Keene jumped in the water to assist and was able to get under and lift the man while Officer Boyette pulled upstream to free his arm. Officer Harris threw them a lift jacket and had to break away due to the strong current. The officers placed the life jacket on the man and began talking to him and prepared to lift him into the boat. Officer Harris returned with the boat and the officers were able to lift him on board. The man was extremely weak and could barely walk due to losing all of his strength fighting the current. The officers took him to the shore where he was evaluated and transported my medical personnel to a local hospital. He suffered multiple rock strikes to his sternum and his legs and had an extremely high heart rate from the stress of the incident. After turning the gentleman over to medical personnel, the officers returned to the river to rescue the original stranded kayaker and were able to successfully get him in their boat and return to shore without incident. While documenting and conducting their investigation into both of these incidents, the officers noticed and assisted in recovering a 13-year-old boy who had flipped and gotten separated from his kayak in the same shoals where both rescues had just been performed. The swift and decisive actions by these officers that day ensured a safe return home for all individuals involved.
Joint Boat and River Training – On August 8, 2020, CPO Sergeant Keene and Officers Harris and Boyette organized and participated in joint boat and river training on the New River in Wythe County with Lead Mines Rescue Squad, Pulaski County Fire and Rescue and Christians Aid Ministries Search and Rescue. The training was successful at building a partnership and forging a working relationship between the agencies to better prepare them for executing river rescues in the future.
Investigation Ongoing After Vehicle and Foot Pursuit – On Friday August 14, 2020, CPO Rutledge was traveling south on Route 100 in Pulaski County and witnessed a wooden board fall off the top of a white work van. CPO Rutledge attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle. The vehicle did a U-turn and accelerated northbound. A pursuit ensued approximately 4.5 miles onto Highland Road in Parrot, VA. The suspect vehicle went off-road and turned left through a yard and continued traveling through the backyard where it intersected with a single lane dirt road. CPO Rutledge lost visual of the vehicle for approximately 2 minutes and located tracks through a field on the right side of the road. The vehicle was located behind an old house. When CPO Rutledge pulled into the area a male subject ran and a foot pursuit ensued until the subject ran into a thick patch of woods where Officer Rutledge lost visual. At that time CPO Rutledge contacted DWR dispatch to contact K9 units. Officer Rutledge went back to the white work van to clear it for more suspects. He safely worked his way to the back of the van, where both doors were already open and a male subject was found in the back lodged between tools. CPOs Wirt and Phillips arrived on scene to assist CPO Rutledge and safely got the suspect out of the vehicle and into custody. The male subject in the back of the van was arrested for drunk in public. The vehicle had alcohol containers throughout including in the driver’s seat. CPO Billings and K9 partner Molly, Virginia State Police, and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the search for the male subject that ran. Upon further investigation, the Virginia registration and state inspection on the van were fictious. The subject that fled was not located, but has been identified. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.
CPOs Attend Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon – On August 20, 2020, CPOs Matthew Arnold, Dylan Harding, Tyler Sheets, CPO Sergeant James Hale, and Major Bryan Young attended a law enforcement appreciation luncheon at the Southern Gap Visitors Center, hosted by the Buchanan County BAR Association. The luncheon provided food to local deputies, troopers, and CPOs, as well as raffles for prizes. Retired Virginia Supreme Court Justice McClanahan was a guest speaker at the event, in which she spoke of the need for law enforcement in society and included points that described the thin blue line of Police Officers as the point of separation between the rule of law and lawlessness. Multiple county and state Law Enforcement officers attended the event.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Poacher Charged – In May of 2020, Sergeant Rich Goszka received information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of a possible poacher in the Manassas area of Prince William County. DHS executed a search warrant on a suspect for the illegal importation of firearm silencers from China. The warrant was for the suspect’s phone and computer, which contained numerous illegal wildlife kills. Officers Alberto Medina and Katiana Quarles obtained a new search warrant to view the seized electronic data. They found that the suspect was killing deer over bait, using a thermal scope, illegal weapons for deer hunting, hunting after legal hours, exceeding the bag limit for bucks and failing to tag and check deer kills. The suspect was charged in July with numerous hunting violations with a pending court date in October.
Saturation Patrol on Lake Anna – On Saturday, August 1, 2020, Lt. Rob Ham, Sgt. Rich Goszka and Officers Alan Hatmaker, Greg Goff, Daniel Eller, Justin Sumpter, Josh Guizar conducted a saturation patrol on Lake Anna in response to the Lake’s annual Glow Party. During the event officers responded to a drowning related to swimming, a person cut by a propeller while swimming around an anchored boat and assisted the Sheriff’s Office with a drunk-in-public arrest. At midnight Officer Sumpter and Guizar arrested two subjects for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol. They were both transported to the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office where their final blood alcohol content was a .09 and .14. Both were lodged at the jail.
K9 Unit Hosts DWR Experience Event – On August 17,2020, the DWR Special Operations K9 Unit held a DWR Experience demonstration at the Hanover Public Training Center.
Seven individuals from different departments within the DWR structure attended the event. The handlers provided the individuals who attended with information about the K9 Unit, the equipment used, training methods and their actual K9 partners. The participants were given the opportunity to lay training tracks for the K9 teams and were also allowed to run behind the handler and their K9 partner while tracking others. In addition to the track training, the participants hid items for the dogs to locate. The event was a great success and the unit looks forward to holding additional ones in the near future.
She Knows What to Do – On Aug. 23,2020, CPO Ostlund and his K9 partner Reese assisted the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office with a welfare check of a female in Rockingham County. It was reported that the female had consumed numerous sleeping pills and then walked into the woods near her residence. She reportedly hadn’t been seen or heard from for several hours. Moments after the K9 team arrived on location, a family member was able to make phone contact with the female and she confirmed that she was still in the woods, but that she wanted to sleep. CPO Ostlund and Reese entered the woods behind the residence, which had been previously searched by persons both on foot and utilizing a dirt-bike. CPO Ostlund planned to deploy Reese beyond the areas of the woods that had been heavily contaminated with human scent, but without any verbal prompting K9 Reese suddenly led CPO Ostlund and the rest of the search party down a dirt trail. A short while later Reese led the team directly to the female subject, who was laying down on the ground and clearly distraught. EMS responded to the scene and checked the subject’s welfare. CPO Ostlund rewarded his partner with lots of play and love for a job well done!