A Fauquier County special grand jury has cleared two Virginia game wardens of wrongdoing in a shootout last October near the Blue Ridge Mountains that left one man dead and one of the wardens seriously wounded.

The panel said wardens Dwight Campbell, 30, and Gary Dalton, 28, acted in self-defense when they fatally shot a 30-year-old Delaplane man, Randolph Dudley Wyne, during a nighttime stakeout in thick woods 65 miles west of Washington.

The shooting, the first in memory involving game wardens in the county, occurred about midnight, Oct. 20 as Campbell and Dalton searched for hunters illegally "spotlighting" deer -- using searchlights to blind the animals, making them easy prey.

Although Campbell and Dalton said Wyne opened fire first with a 12-gauge shotgun after being cautioned to identify himself, an eyewitness, Wyne's girlfriend Tina Carter, reportedly told the grand jury it was the wardens who "snuck up on us and shot first." But the grand jury disagreed.

Fauquier prosecutor Charles Foley, who led the grand jury investigation, said the finding was based on the "overwhelming weight of the evidence supplied by three witnesses." He declined to reveal their names.

Campbell and Dalton had returned to the area along a winding portion of state Rte. 721 after arresting another man on an illegal spotlighting charge the previous night, officials said at the time.

Foley said yesterday that the grand jury, in a reenactment of the episode at the scene last December, determined the wardens had "noticed powerful lights in the woods near a small farm road" and assumed it was a hunter spotlighting.

In their report, however, the grand jury members found "no evidence of spotlighting" and said the lights the wardens saw were from the car driven by Wyne's girlfriend, Carter.

One grand jury witness, who was reportedly 70 to 75 yards away from the wardens when the shots were fired, testified he saw the bright muzzle flashes of a shotgun before seeing the smaller flash from the wardens' service revolvers. Foley said the witness' name was being kept secret for his own safety.

"Campbell ordered him to throw down his gun," Foley said, "and then was hit in the upper thighs with a shotgun blast. Dalton was scampering backwards at the time.

"Then Dalton ordered Wyne to drop his gun again," Foley continued, "when the deceased began walking toward the stricken Campbell with his shotgun. There was a second exchange of gunfire and Wyne was killed."

Foley said Wyne was shot five times by both wardens but that it was impossible to determine who had fired the fatal shot.

Foley added that "even in the event that Campbell had fired first, it still would have been self-defense. Wyne had made verbal threats against his life [at the time of the shooting] and had refused to drop his gun."

A Fauquier County hospital spokesman said yesterday that Campbell was still in the intensive care section following further "reconstructive surgery on both legs. Both thighs were badly fractured" by the shotgun blast.

"He was in a body cast before he came here," said nursing supervisor Marie Anderson, "and now he has a cast on just one leg. Both femurs were shattered. The prognosis is unknown."

"It's a watch-and-wait process," Anderson said. "It's like nothing I've ever seen before. It's more like something you would see in Vietnam."