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Manslaughter Charge Dismissed Against Virginia Conservation Police Officer

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.

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