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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glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:04 pm
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I tought Justus was one brick

I tought Justus was one brick shy--that was until smarter came along, hee, hee!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:08 pm
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it's your tree too gmaker.

it's your tree too gmaker. but don't worry...i'll protect it so you can breathe. breathe. breathe. based on your comments about comparing our bios...you seem to think you know something about me. just like you thought you knew something about wildlife and healthy ecosystems.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:12 pm
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Ecosystems, bet you had to

Ecosystems, bet you had to spell check that, come on, didn't you? But, on a serious note save an iceberg for me, would you?

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 09:16 pm
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Oh Sean, oh Sean, when you

Oh Sean, oh Sean, when you stop laughing just don't push the delete button, this is the best of the best, let it ride..............

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:27 pm
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look it up? yup...i did look

look it up? yup...i did look it up...in the third grade!...i'll work to save a glacier just for you...only if you promise to run your sinking ship (ie. your efforts to "one up" me and the facts as i have presented them here) into it so i don't have to watch you drown soooooo slowly. although just as cobaltgeorge indicated...that might be fun to watch. i just won't do it if you're gonna use it to pour some of cobaltgeorges "crown reserve" over it...you struggle enough without having to add liquor to the mix!

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 09:27 pm
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What we have here folks is

What we have here folks is the making of a good military man, "Just tell him to charge the hill but don't kill any birds on the way up"

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:31 pm
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Smart, where did you look it

Smart, where did you look it up, Grimm's Fairy Tales? Go to bed son, so your mommy can wipe your butt and nose and send you to your third grade class tomorrow. Maybe you will make it to high school by the time you are 50! I wish you all the luck! Oh, by the way, when mommy changes your diaper for bed tonight, make sure she puts on extra powder. We would hate for you to wake up with a rash tomorrow like today and have to read your BS all day!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:31 pm
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military man? ha!...i don't

military man? ha!...i don't take orders from anyone...i'm able to make my own decisions and form my own values. don't need uncle sam to rasie me. i've seen the quality of character he turns out ad i'm not impressed. even in large groups thay can't take out one well trained/well educated individual...because?

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:33 pm
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gmaker...how's it feel to

gmaker...how's it feel to know you let a grade schooler rattle your cage to the point you break down and join him on the playground? i think you have a lil dirt in your mouth...your supposed to sling that mud...not eat it.

glassrinkmaker
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glassrinkmaker 03/08/10 - 09:35 pm
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Goodnight Smart, you are

Goodnight Smart, you are becomming a bore!

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 09:35 pm
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Hey SMARTERNU, it has been

Hey SMARTERNU, it has been fun up to now, but you are now crossing the line...just cool it and I mean it....

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:35 pm
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and what does this have to do

and what does this have to do with the fools who negligently killed a good man?...huh?...nothing...oh yeah...because you are unable to stick to the task when you are so confused and frustrated about being corrected so many times.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:37 pm
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Smarter, you wouldn't last

Smarter, you wouldn't last through the first haircut as a Military man! Your attitude would have you in the stockade, prior to your bad conduct discharge!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:38 pm
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cobalt-looks like you're

cobalt-looks like you're outta line soldier.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 09:42 pm
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My prayers and heart goes out

My prayers and heart goes out to the family that has suffered this lose. May God give you the power & strength to face tomorrow and all the day ahead. Death in any matter is always hard to live with.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:40 pm
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You haven't corrected anyone,

You haven't corrected anyone, Smarty! All you've done is alienate some pretty intelligent folk!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:40 pm
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listen to yourselves...

listen to yourselves...

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:41 pm
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If you were as "in line" as

If you were as "in line" as Cobalt, you wouldn't have the need to continue making a jerk out of yourself!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:42 pm
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Kinda hard to hear written

Kinda hard to hear written words, don'tcha think?

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:43 pm
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alienate would indicate that

alienate would indicate that you were driven away sarge...you've mistaken my choice to avoid people like you as alienation. i came here to discuss the facts. i did that...i did it so well you all broke down and lost your cool...and i didn't even have to use a waterboard!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:45 pm
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i hear ya sarge! hear ya

i hear ya sarge! hear ya goin' all to pieces.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 03/08/10 - 09:46 pm
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I going back to R&R, I would

I going back to R&R, I would rather debate a liberal than this anti-American so called human.

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:49 pm
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the three of ya surround me

the three of ya surround me in this forum...get taken down by my rock solid comments...and cry about it. SEMPER CRY!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:50 pm
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You? Drive me away? In a pigs

You? Drive me away? In a pigs eye, Smartun! When you get "the facts" straight, then, maybe you could discuss them! As it stands right now, you don't even know how to read through the entire article, to glean any facts! You just jumped right on in there like a fool, accusing, without a final investigation. Come back when you really smarten up. Somone said you were a bore! Well, I agree!

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:52 pm
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The day you take me down, is

The day you take me down, is when you start using intelligence instead of kneejerk accusations, and four letter words, but ya can't do that now, can ya?

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:52 pm
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all fun and games til someone

all fun and games til someone gets their feelings hurt huh cg? i'm outta here too. got better things to do than watch expats cry.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 09:54 pm
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Sorry, Smarter, you're just

Sorry, Smarter, you're just too slow for me. See ya, Mac!

SMARTERNU
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SMARTERNU 03/08/10 - 09:58 pm
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that's a loose definition of

that's a loose definition of "alienate" sarge...to drive folks away...that was your word not mine. i've kept you old guys up too late, you're melting down here. the fools with guns killed an innocent man and they will face legal consquences and should. i'll see you back here when the charges are filed and we'll resume training then. i know i've been tough on you guys with all the facts and my skilled delivery of said facts. get some sleep now lil fellas tomorrow is another day and will be filled with more lessons if you sign up. until then...remember...i didn't say i was the smartest. just smarternu!

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/08/10 - 09:59 pm
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If you're so darn smart,

If you're so darn smart, SMARTERNEWE, put your IQ up here for all of us to admire. I dare you. Back it up with facts, or just prove yourself to be the blowhard snark you've been looking like all day and evening.

I personally don't think you know the difference between genuine facts, ie, a game warden was shot and killed by a hunter hunting coyotes, and your opinion, ie, the hunter is irresponsible and shouldn't have been allowed to possess a gun or be out using it in a legal activity.

See the difference, genius?

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 03/08/10 - 10:10 pm
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You really don't read well do

You really don't read well do you Smarty? A good indicator is your lack of respect for proper punctuation and capital letters, as well as a lack of respect for the possibility that you could be wrong! Arrogance is your trademark, dude, and you get what you give where respect is concerned.
No, you're not smarter than me, but the other half of this remark, is that I couldn't care less about your intelligence quotient. After all, you've displayed it well, all evening! Ha! What a maroon!

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