A 30-year-old Virginia man suspected of illegally hunting deer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains was shot and killed late Friday night in a gun fight with two state game wardens.
One of the wardens was critically injured in the shooting, which occurred moments after the officers said they saw a man "spotlight" a deer in dense woods about 65 miles west of Washington.
Fauquier County Sheriff's officers said the dead man, Randolph Dudley Wyne of Delaplane, was suspected of violating three hunting laws including the state's ban on "spotlighting" deer. That is a hunting practice that gets its name from the use of a searchlight which tends to temporarily blind an animal, leaving it immobile and vulnerable to a hunter.
"They're like sitting ducks and that's not sport," said Fauquier Sheriff's Lt. Warren L. Jenkins yesterday. "That's why it's illegal."
State game warden Dwight Campbell, 30, of The Plains, who was checking on reports of a rash of spotlighting in the area, suffered serious shotgun wounds in the upper thigh area. He was listed yesterday in stable condition at Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton. "He's expected to pull through," Jenkins said, "but it will be a long, hard struggle."
Investigating officers said yesterday that Wyne had opened fire on Campbell and Warden Gary Dalton, 28, of Sumerduck, with both barrels, of a 12-gauge shotgun after he had been cautioned to identify himself.the investigators said they did not know which officer had fired the fatal shots, but Wyne was struck at least twice by shots fired from a warden's .38-caliber service revolver. Dalton was not injured.
Fauquier County authorities said they could not recall a similar incident in the rural county, where hunting is a popular pasttme. "Violators are caught all the time. Sometimes they use illegal snares or traps, but no one has ever opened fire on a warden before," said one officer.
The two wardens had been staking out an area along State Rte. 731 near Delaplane when they spotted a car parked along the side of the road shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, investigators said.
A man left the car and went into the woods, where the wardens saw the beam from a hand-held light and heard shotgun blasts, the investigators said. At that point, they approached the car to question a woman who had remained there.
The shooting followed when Wyne came from the woods. Fauquier officers said the woman was held for questioning, but they declined to identify her.
Deer hunting season opened on Monday in Fauquier, but only for hunters using bows and arrows. Deer can be hunted with guns after Nov. 20, but only during the daytime.
Investigators said Dalton had arrested another man in the same area for "spotlighting" deer a night before the shooting.
Francis N. Satterlee, information officer for the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries said "a lot" of illegal spotlight hunting occurs in that section of the state.
"The legal deer harvest for the state last year was 72,000, but we have no idea how many deer are killed by criminals each year. These people aren't sportsmen, they're criminals," Satterlee said.
He said the last time a warden had been involved in a shooting incident was more than 10 years ago.