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Thread: VA Game Warden Indicted For Voluntary Manslaughter

  1. #1
    State Researcher HankT's Avatar
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    This story is interesting on a number of fronts. The NBC 29 account below lacks most of the details of the shooting. But another account at:

    http://libertypost.org/cgi-bin/reada...9&Trace=on

    seems to have them.

    The police are being termed "tightlipped" about the case in the above account and there does seem toa lack of detailed info about the shooting incident. For example, the deceased kid was either armed or not but that hasn't been publicizedyet.

    All in all, seems like a good chance that it was a bad shoot by police (with their "helper"). Seems to me they should leave police work to police.





    Game Warden Indicted


    Reported by Henry Graff
    June 12, 2007



    A state game warden has been indicted by a Greene County grand jury for the shooting death of a teenager in January.

    16-year-old Allen Cochran was shot to death by a game warden on January 24. Police were trying to stop him because they thought he might have another teen with him who had been reported missing.

    24-year-old Ham had been assigned to Greene County and was helping deputies that night. Investigators say Ham fired after Cochran tried to run him over with his car.

    Ham is still currently employed with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in a non-law enforcement role. Colonel G. Michael Bise with the department released this statement:

    "We are deeply disturbed by the indictment of Officer Rob Ham. While we are not privy to the full state police investigation, our administrative review indicates that Ham reacted appropriately to a real threat and in fact was injured by the actions of another in the carrying out of that threat. This young officer was simply acting in response to a request for help by another agency, and indeed in aid to a young female that information at that time indicated may have been in danger. We look forward to the facts of this matter receiving full and impartial judicial review."

    Tuesday, the grand jury charged the warden, Robert Ham, III, with voluntary manslaughter. The indictment means there is enough evidence for Hamm to go to trial.

    The commonwealth's attorney was waiting for evidence from the state crime lab to return before Hamm was charged.

    "Obviously, there were certain facts in the case that must have given the grand jury some concern. I don't know if the ballistic test was the issue that they were concerned about," stated commonwealth attorney Ron Morris.

    With the involuntary manslaughter charge, Hamm faces up to 10 years in prison.



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    Another armed man vs. car...

    my thoughts have always been that if you have enough time to draw and sight a target, you have enough time to duck and roll or even just step aside. Unless a loved one was in the car with them (ala carjacking) I wouldn't think of shooting, and even in that case I'd be hesitant because of my loved ones being in the line of fire.
    -Unrequited

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    HankT wrote:
    Game Warden Indicted


    Reported by Henry Graff
    June 12, 2007


    A state game warden has been indicted by a Greene County grand jury for the shooting death of a teenager in January.
    Tuesday, the grand jury charged the warden, Robert Ham, III, with voluntary manslaughter. The indictment means there is enough evidence for Hamm to go to trial.
    The commonwealth's attorney was waiting for evidence from the state crime lab to return before Hamm was charged.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Actually, the highlighted statement above does nothing of the kind. The typical GJ process precludes the defendant or his/her lawyer from being represented - just the prosecuter, at al. Many GJ seatings return no bill and should never have been brought to trial in the first case.
    JMHO
    Howrd

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    Well there is an old saw among lawyers that a prosecutor can get a Grand Jury to indite a ham sandwich. In this case it seems that is literally true.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
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    State Researcher HankT's Avatar
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    Hawkflyer wrote:
    Well there is an old saw among lawyers that a prosecutor can get a Grand Jury to indite a ham sandwich. In this case it seems that is literally true.
    Ouch! That's the worst pun I've heard all day....but it is funny.

    Since the mood has been set, here's another:



    But the latest info on this case follows. Seems like the game warden was just a wannabe street cop. One who probably was dozing off when they covered continuum of force in the academy:


    Training key to officer's shooting trial
    By Liesel Nowak
    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    The criminal charges filed against a game warden in the wake of the fatal, on-duty shooting of a teen in Greene County are raising questions about the law-enforcement training such officers receive and whether it may affect his trial.

    Though he was only in his 18th month as a game warden in Virginia, the 25-year-old officer, Robert O. Ham III, trained extensively in self-defense and proper use of force, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
    Indicted on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the death of 16-year-old Allen Cochran, Ham is scheduled to make his first appearance in Greene Circuit Court on Tuesday.

    It is the first time in recent memory, perhaps ever, that a law enforcement officer in Central Virginia has faced criminal charges in the wake of an on-duty shooting.
    Ham did not return phone calls seeking comment.

    According to Maj. Dabney Watts, assistant chief of law enforcement for the game department, officers such as Ham go through more training than the minimum required by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, which oversees police training in the state.

    Before donning his uniform, Ham endured 35 weeks of academy work, which included classes on the law, tracking suspects, boating, firearms instruction and fending off an attack.

    Determining a threat level
    Learning the appropriate amount of force to use in every conceivable situation, or the “continuum of force,” is a key part of training required of game wardens, Watts said.

    “You start, of course, with verbal commands,” he said. “You escalate as the threat to you escalates.”

    Options include placing hands on a suspect and using pepper spray and an asp baton. Lethal force is allowable if there is a major threat of physical harm that could lead to loss of life or limb for the officer or others, Watts said.

    “A motor vehicle is a two-ton lethal weapon,” he added.

    It was fear of being struck by a motor vehicle that Ham is likely to argue was his reason for shooting Cochran the night of Jan. 24.

    Police received a call that night indicating that the teen might have been armed and might have abducted his 15-year-old girlfriend.

    Ham and county sheriff’s deputies responding to the call stopped Cochran’s car on U.S. 33. According to a police report at the time, Ham tried to remove the girl from the car when the car moved forward and struck the warden.

    Ham then opened fire, killing Cochran, police said at the time.

    Cochran’s mother, who has recently turned down requests for interviews, previously denounced reports that her son kidnapped his girlfriend and said instead that the teens were running away together.

    Danielle Cochran Ramirez also said her son struggled with mental illness in the past.

    An officer’s authority

    One of the first questions to be raised after the shooting was what a game warden was doing assisting local law enforcement in a potentially dangerous traffic stop.
    “Our primary mission is to enforce the game, fishing and boating laws of the commonwealth of Virginia,” Watts said. “In 1982, game wardens were given full police powers. The General Assembly recognized we were encountering all types of law violations, so they recognized how the role was changing, what we were running into.”

    With about 170 officers, the game department runs the second-largest law enforcement agency in the state, just behind the state police.

    In the past three years, according to Watts, game wardens have issued around 10,000 summonses and 2,500 warnings in Virginia, including the more urban environs of Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

    The game department in July will replace the term “game warden” with “conservation police officer,” to clarify the officers’ authority.

    Criminal charges

    As Ham prepares to face the criminal charge, the questions surrounding the case are expanding to include whether law enforcement officers with extensive training could be held to a higher account.

    “That’ll come into play in the jury’s deliberation,” said Dan Atkins, a Charlottesville-based defense lawyer. “But when you’re looking at his actions and as the fear appears to him the jury can certainly take into their account what this guy’s training was and should he have acted better than he did.”

    The burden of proof shifts to the accused in a self-defense case, Atkins observed.
    “The game warden needs to have a realistic fear of bodily harm,” Atkins said. “He has to reasonably fear under the circumstances as they appear to him that he was in danger of being killed and that he was in danger of great bodily harm.”

    To earn a voluntary manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show that Ham intentionally killed Cochran in the heat of passion, without malice. If he’s found guilty, Ham faces up to 10 years in prison.

    http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP%2FMGArticle%2FCDP_BasicArti cle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173351673655&path =!news



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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    Well when I was in Game law enforcement (not in Virginia), we had a similar shooting incident. The Conservation Agent shot an escaping felon, after being attacked with the felons car. He dived clear of the threat, and shot through the rear window of the car, killing the man instantly.

    He got 10 years. After the car passed him, the lethal threat was over, and the shooting was not justified.

    This guys only saving grace for what I have seen on the case is that the girl was 15, and was not legally able to decide if she could run away with her boy friend or not. So the possibility of kidnapping and hostage rescue from the kidnapper, is this guys only hope.

    I wish him luck, but it looks like a long road to any possible vindication, and he will likely still face a wrongful death suit.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    State Researcher lockman's Avatar
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    If the car is being used as a weapon, what's the difference shooting a fleeing felon with a car or a gun? I suppose in most states now, you can't shoot a fleeing felon even if he is armed.

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    Campaign Veteran roscoe13's Avatar
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    lockman wrote:
    If the car is being used as a weapon, what's the difference shooting a fleeing felon with a car or a gun? I suppose in most states now, you can't shoot a fleeing felon even if he is armed.
    I think the point is, if he's already passed you and proceeding away, you life is no longer in danger. If a BG with a gun shoots at you, misses, and then throws down his gun, and then you shoot him, you're gonna have a hell of a time claiming self defence...
    "The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good." - George Washington

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    roscoe13 wrote:
    lockman wrote:
    If the car is being used as a weapon, what's the difference shooting a fleeing felon with a car or a gun? I suppose in most states now, you can't shoot a fleeing felon even if he is armed.
    I think the point is, if he's already passed you and proceeding away, you life is no longer in danger.* If a BG with a gun shoots at you, misses, and then throws down his gun, and then you shoot him, you're gonna have a hell of a time claiming self defence...
    +1
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    How is this voluntary manslaughter? Did he have a thing going on with the girl and go off the deep end? If it was recklessness then it should be involuntary manslaughter. Somebody screwed up.

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