Outdoors

Turkey poaching least of crimes for bagged Okanogan felons

State and federal officers pose with evidence in turkey poaching case that blossomed into a bigger case in Okanogan County. (Washington Fish and Wildlife Department)
State and federal officers pose with evidence in turkey poaching case that blossomed into a bigger case in Okanogan County. (Washington Fish and Wildlife Department)

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Some creepy wild life is going on in remote areas of Okanogan County, although it's been thinned out in recent months by Fish and Wildlife cops.

Felons and a sex offender illegally possession firearms, running a still, whacking turkeys out of season — oh, my! — and they had the balls to get in the face of an undercover officer who was just out “minding his own business” on a public road?  

Law-abiding sportsmen will enjoy the following report on a satisfying bust by the WDFW.  Click continue reading….

Based on the initial report, Sgt. Christensen enlisted the aid of Communications Officers in WILDCOMM (the WDFW Police dispatch center) to begin mining data from several resources to identify three of the four suspects, as well as several associates. During their research, the COs were also able to determine that the primary suspect was a convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing any firearms.

 Next, Sgt. Christensen and Officer Day obtained critical background information by driving through the area in an undercover vehicle. In fact, while driving through, the Officers were actually contacted and harassed by one of the suspects who, like many people living ‘off the grid’ in the area, are extremely wary of visitors they do not recognize (side note: to illustrate this point, a grouse hunter from Hoquiam died on Pontiac Ridge last September after allegedly being shot and killed by a sniper at a nearby cabin). 

 Sgt. Christensen spent many long hours compiling and organizing all of the information he had received into a search warrant affidavit. After burning the midnight oil, Sgt. Christensen presented the affidavit the next morning to a judge who determined probable cause existed for three warrants involving three different properties. 

 Next, a raid plan was developed. Sgt. Klump dropped what he was doing to drive up from Chelan to assist Sgt. Christensen, Fish and Wildlife Officers Day and Treser, and two Okanogan County Sheriff’s Deputies in executing the search warrants. Upon searching the first two properties, Officers found the first of two closed season turkeys that had been killed with a rifle, as well as a male convicted felon who had a firearm. At the third residence, which belonged to the primary suspect, Officers encountered a man who lied about his identity. However, after determining his real name, Officers found that he had three outstanding felony warrants for his arrest, including escape from community custody and failure to register as a sex offender. The suspect also had two additional misdemeanor warrants, and had been on the run as a fugitive for the past three years. 

 As a result of the search, Officers recovered four loaded firearms, an illegal deer carcass, seven turkey carcasses, an authentic- looking replica of a U.S. Marshal badge, and ammunition for the weapons. One of the suspects claimed that a seized 7mm rifle belonged to his wife. However, during the initial investigation, Officer McCormick made a very acute observation that the 7mm rifle had a side saddle set up for a left-handed shooter – the recoil from such a large caliber weapon would make it very uncomfortable to shoot right-handed. It was also noted that the suspect signed his seizure forms with his left hand.

 Officers also found that the suspects were illegally brewing alcohol in the kitchen with an illegal still, and determined that they were selling the brew to friends in the local area. 

 All in all, Sgt. Christensen booked the primary suspect on 49 charges, including failure to register as a sex offender, unlawful possession of a firearm in the 1st degree, making a false or misleading statement to police, hunting without licenses or tags, exceeding the bag limit on turkeys, possession of turkeys closed season, and hunting with an unlawful firearm. 

 The suspects reportedly felt that the remoteness of the area in which they were conducting their illegal activities would “protect them from law enforcement.” Apparently they forgot that remote locations are a Fish and Wildlife Officer's specialty!

 Kudos to Sgt. Christensen for making an excellent case! Sgt. Christensen also wishes to extend his appreciation to Sgt. Klump and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office for their extra help with this case.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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