|November 20, 2007
Stanardsville, Virginia — The Virginia Department of Game
and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) announced that the charge of voluntary
manslaughter against Conservation Police Officer Robert O. Ham, III,
has been dismissed. Greene County Circuit Court Judge Daniel R.
Bouton dismissed the charge today.
Officer Ham, with the Law Enforcement Division of VDGIF, had been
charged with voluntary manslaughter following a shooting incident
that occurred in January when he was assisting deputies with the
Greene County Sheriff's Office. Ham was in the Greene County
Sheriff's Office when an alert was sent out for an "endangered
missing juvenile" female who may have been abducted by a juvenile
male who was "possibly armed" and had "made threats to multiple
individuals." The alert included information describing the
individuals, the vehicle, and their possible destination.
Officer Ham accompanied the deputies to a location along Route 33 at
the entrance to the Woodridge subdivision where the suspect was
believed to be headed. The suspect's vehicle approached the
intersection and was intercepted by the deputies' vehicles. The
conservation police officer was struck by the vehicle when the
driver accelerated. The officer discharged his firearm fatally
wounding the suspect.
The incident was investigated by the Virginia State Police Bureau of
Criminal Investigation. An internal administrative investigation was
conducted by VDGIF.
According to Colonel Mike Bise, chief of VDGIF's Law Enforcement
Division, "Our administrative investigation determined that our
officer acted appropriately. It was an unfortunate and tragic event,
but we have been confident the court would reach this decision."
Virginia conservation police officers, previously called game
wardens, have full police authority but focus on enforcing the
Commonwealth's wildlife and boating laws. Typically, one officer is
assigned to work a county or city, but in some cases there may be
more than one assigned to a jurisdiction depending on the needs of
that community. Officers provide back up and assist each other in
adjacent counties within their work area. Frequently, conservation
police officers work with local law enforcement providing support
for manhunts, search and rescue, and other enforcement efforts.