Fatal shooting of Ga. game officer under investigation

Monday, March 8, 2010 12:41 PM
Last updated 1:25 PM
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The fatal shooting of a USDA Forest Service law enforcement officer by coyote hunters in Jasper County remained under investigation today by state and federal wildlife authorities.


Coyote hunters shot and killed 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., Friday night.  Special
Special
Coyote hunters shot and killed 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., Friday night.

"At this point, charges, if any, have not been determined," said spokeswoman Melissa Cummings of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. "It is still under investigation and we are working with the Forest Service on this one."

The officer, 37-year-old Christopher Arby Upton of Monroe, Ga., was shot and killed about 11 p.m. Friday while patrolling in the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Recreation Area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

The man who shot him, Norman Clinton Hale, 40, of McDonough, Ga., was hunting coyotes with a high-powered rifle equipped with night-vision equipment. He was accompanied by another man, Clifford Allen McGouirk, 41, of Jackson, Ga., authorities said.

According to the their accounts of the incident, Upton was behind a berm, using binoculars, and the binocular lenses apparently looked like eyes through the men's night-vision scopes. They later told investigators they mistook Upton for a coyote and shot him. They subsequently dialed 911 to report the shooting and are cooperating with investigators.

Coyotes are a nuisance species in Georgia and there is no closed season, Cummings said. They may be hunted year-round, and at night, with no bag limits-and the equipment the men were using is legal for such hunts.

Steven Ruppert, special agent-in-charge for the Southern Region of the Forest Service, said in a letter to employees today that the incident has been a terrible tragedy.

 "We are all aware of the inherent risk and danger of this job," he wrote. "Ability, training, and experience, however, cannot protect us in all situations even though we do the right thing. Chris was doing his job and doing it well."

Law Enforcement Col. Homer Bryson of Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division said the officer was killed instantly-and blamed the tragedy on the failure of the shooter to properly identify his target before pulling the trigger.

The accident marks the 32nd accident and eighth hunting related fatality in Georgia for the 2009-2010 seasons, according to Department of Natural Resources records.

The eight fatalities included-in addition to Upton's death-two deaths attributed to natural causes (stroke and heart attack), one "mistaken for game" shooting, one accidental, self-inflicted shooting, a rattlesnake bite and two falls from deer stands.

By comparison, Georgia's 2008-09 hunting season yielded 34 hunting accidents with four fatalities.  Two of those cases involved heart attacks and two were due to falls from tree stands. There were no fatal shootings, but state authorities did investigate six people who were shot by other hunters in cases where people were mistaken for game; and six cases of accidental self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

One of victims among those 2008 shootings was a Georgia game warden, Cpl. Curtis Wright, who was shot in the lower chest with a 7 mm magnum rifle by a deer hunter 70 yards away. He survived his wounds but has since retired.

The deer hunter who fired the shot, Lynn Jeffers, eventually pleaded guilty to negligent use of a firearm, hunting without hunter education certification, hunting without a license and hunting without permission. He received four years of probation plus fines and was given first offender status, according to DNR records.

During the 2007-08 season, there were five shooting fatalities, of which four involved children or teenagers. During 2006-07, there were no fatal shootings and the single reported fatality involved a fall from a tree stand.

Most hunting accidents occur during deer season, which attracts the most participants. Typically, about 350,000 people hunt in Georgia each season.

Upton, a 4-year veteran of the Forest Service, previously worked as a game warden for the U.S. Marine Corps and as a game warden and pilot with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and a 4-year-old daughter, Annabelle.

GEORGIA HUNTING ACCIDENTS

2009-2010: 32 accidents with eight fatalities

2008-2009: 34 accidents with four fatalities

2007-2008: 21 accidents with five fatalities

2006-2007: 22 accidents with one fatality

2005-2006: 28 accidents with three fatalities

2004-2005: 16 accidents with two fatalities

2003-2004: 17 accidents with four fatalities

Source: Ga. DNR

THE SOUTHERN COYOTE

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Canis latrans

COLOR: Grayish brown to reddish tan to nearly black

AVERAGE WEIGHT: 25 to 45 pounds

PRIMARY DIET: Rabbits, rodents, fruit berries, birds

SCAT: Cigar-shaped, with bone, fur and seeds

TOP RUNNING SPEED: 40 mph

HABITAT: All areas of Georgia, South Carolina

HOME RANGE: 2 to 20 square miles

LITTER SIZE: 5 to 7 pups, born in spring

Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Ga. Department of Natural Resources

Comments (153) Add comment
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CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 08:36 pm
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donnymack, where did you get

donnymack, where did you get the information that Christopher Arby Upton was wearing glasses?

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 08:36 pm
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NOTED

NOTED

CobaltGeorge
164128
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 08:37 pm
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If he was, you have a small

If he was, you have a small point.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 08:38 pm
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gmaker- "we thought it was

gmaker- "we thought it was coyote eyes..." those facts are out and more than anough to label both hunters reckless. seems funny you want more facts than that...please give examples of what unknown details/circumstances would change the fact that these guys needlessly and irresponsibly killed another human being?...i'd love to see, from your viewpoint, what it would take to make it o.k. that these two killers put that guy in a grave and his family in turmoil. please do share.

CobaltGeorge
164128
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 08:40 pm
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SMARTERNHU...SMARTERNUMonday,

SMARTERNHU...SMARTERNUMonday, Mar. 8 7:33 PM "Noted"

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 08:40 pm
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wearing glasses?...who

wearing glasses?...who cares?...he coulda been wearing a coyote mask...still not o.k. to draw down on him and kill him...

CobaltGeorge
164128
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 08:41 pm
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Going to R&R

Going to R&R ..................

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 08:44 pm
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Donnymack sez; "There is no

Donnymack sez; "There is no excuse for shooting another person. The hunter was obviously trigger happy and has no business owning a gun."
_________________________________________________

Donny, tell that to the numbers of Viet Cong that tried to kill me! More assumptions on your part does not validate that this shooter was trigger happy, nor that he has no right to own a gun! Let the case be settled before you form any "educated opinion."

corgimom
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corgimom 03/08/10 - 08:49 pm
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Coyotes are great for keeping

Coyotes are great for keeping down mice, rats, and rabbits- which are extremely destructive in their own right.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 08:53 pm
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c'mon sarge lay off the word

c'mon sarge lay off the word games. you know exactly what donnymack meant...if not...then who are you to question anyone elses intelligence? the shooter was more excited about killing than he was prudent in his choice of targets...that makes him more eager to pull the trigger than to i.d. the target = trigger happy...stupid...irresponsible...reckless...a threat to others...careless...and a host of other unsavory "monikers" (used that word so you'd recognize it without confusion.)

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 08:59 pm
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corgimom...that's exactly

corgimom...that's exactly right. their primary food sources are non game species of mammals/insects/etc. they do occassionally kill and eat older or injured deer/fawns/quail etc. and for those few savory meals...hunters think they should die? sounds like the hunters are jealous that the coyotes can get it done efficiently and effectively w/out manmade night vision/trucks/hi-powered rifles/gps/radios/etc....and they have never in recorded history "accidentally" killed a government wildlife officer. "dumb nuisance coyotes" are...smaternhunters.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:06 pm
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They are also great for

They are also great for stealing your lil kitty kats and little pookie poo doggies!

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:07 pm
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Dumber than a box of rocks!

Dumber than a box of rocks!

chris
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chris 03/08/10 - 09:09 pm
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People love to second guess

People love to second guess people without the facts. The hunters were hunting legally. They had loud calls they were playing again and again. The DNR officer was lying on the ground watching them for some time. The hunter saw the reflection of eye, due to the fact of the officer using night vision binoculars. He knew they were hunting. At that time the hunters watched the eyes look at them and then away, just like a coyote. Human eyes do not reflect light that way. If the officer would have been wearing some reflective clothing or identified himself or stud up, the shot would have never been taken. For the sake of other officers the DNR need to find away to help identify them as human and not give every sign of the pray being legally hunted. THIS WAS AN ACCIDENT. As for those of you calling for the hunter's head, I hope you or your children never cause an accident hunting or in a car. Because you think all accidents can be avoided by a Monday morning quarterbacking and should be punished to the fullest. No charges have been filed. So much for innocent until proven guilty. God help us if you have your way and punish a man that made a true mistake, while legally hunting.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:13 pm
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gmaker...you're right, and if

gmaker...you're right, and if they do...that would suck...i should have been responsible enough not to let'em run around in the woods killing/harrassing wildlife. but...that won't happen here...because?...i care for my animals and others enough not to let that happen. i have enough control over my dogs to prevent it...just like i do the muzzle of my guns.

Fiat_Lux
15887
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 09:13 pm
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Sarge, George and

Sarge, George and friends:

Since we have someone here who obviously is smarter than all of the rest of us, and has somehow acquired infallible knowledge that these coyote hunters were nothing but irresponsible killers for having tragically and mistakenly killed a game warden, is there really any point in banging up against this concrete block of obtuseness any longer?

The words "pointless" and "stupid waste of time" come to mind in trying to have a semblance of a discussion with someone who, by their very screen name, so clearly advertises their infatuation with their own opinion.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:17 pm
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it was all legal until that

it was all legal until that pin hit that primer chris. after that...it became a crime and will be handled as such in a court of law...

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:18 pm
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Fiat, notice our absence?

Fiat, notice our absence?

Fiat_Lux
15887
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 09:20 pm
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Please, all, understand that

Please, all, understand that the real crime here is not, according to SMARTERNEWE, that the game warden was killed, but first, that these guys were out hunting poor, defenseless wildlife and happened to kill a human being instead.

No points for guessing the obvious answer as to which order of created life is the more important and and valuable for our PETA friend.

Fiat_Lux
15887
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 09:21 pm
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Sorry, Sarge. I was away and

Sorry, Sarge. I was away and didn't look at the time stamps. I just wanted to get in a few licks myself.

Hope your evening is progressing nicely.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:40 pm
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don't confuse opinion with

don't confuse opinion with facts fiat_lux...seems like you were the one labeling my political affiliation with zero knowledge of me. THAT is tossing around YOUR opinions. (which based on the "facts" behind my political views are wrong as well) i've based my comments on facts as reported thus far...nothing more. didn't say all my knowledge of the case came from this paper...i do read other sources and have many informed contacts throughout the state legal system. gets kinda painful and tiresome banging against that "concrete block" huh?...that "concrete block" of rock solid irrefutable facts and knowledge. didn't say i was smaterneveryone...just smarternu!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:37 pm
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lick away lux...get you some!

lick away lux...get you some!

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:44 pm
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Sarge, one just cannot argue

Sarge, one just cannot argue with a box of rocks!

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:46 pm
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GO TO THE VEHICLE AND WAIT

GO TO THE VEHICLE AND WAIT FOR THE HUNTER!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:59 pm
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"go to the vehicle and wait

"go to the vehicle and wait for the hunter"...or "get off your lazy butt and do your job!", all the while knowing you are at risk of being killed by a fool with a gun. looks like the guy made the choice to do a diligent job and walk/stalk the woods, as expected, to view the hunters in action, because that's what it takes to collect enough evidence to burn poachers in court. this wildlife officer did his job well...and for that he deserved to be shot? oh yeah, i forgot...according to your bio...you have a masters degree in "common sense"...that explains your inabilty to see the man was doing his job as expected/described and as wildlife officers have done for dozens years. it's a routine part of their work to unobtrusively view folks engaged in hunting/fishing at night. you have now been educated a lil more...no need to thank me...it's just because...i am...smarternu.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:59 pm
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Smart, come to think of it,

Smart, come to think of it, you are about the biggest stupid azz I have ever seen post or heard of, except maybe, dumbobama! Go ahead oh webmaster, delet this post because eventhough true. I called an idiot a straight out idiot!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 10:01 pm
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or a rock solid box of facts

or a rock solid box of facts gmaker...you CAN do it...just like you all have done...but...in the end, you will see it gets you exactly where it got you here. nowhere...because facts are not open for debate.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 10:02 pm
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Hey, smart idiot, I don't

Hey, smart idiot, I don't have a posted bio. If I did, it would make yours look like you failed kindergarten!

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 10:03 pm
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Smart, go hug your tree--it's

Smart, go hug your tree--it's calling you!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 10:03 pm
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oh c'mon gmaker...i can

oh c'mon gmaker...i can handle your childish name calling. it typifies folks with common sense. when they are stumped they throw a tantrum.

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