Conservation Officer Wounded During Stakeout

Conservation Officer John Whidbee was wounded Sunday, June 29 while apprehending a suspected nighttime deer poacher in DeKalb County. Officer Whidbee and Sergeant Steve Schrader were on a stakeout of an area where deer hunting at night had been reported. According to the officers, at approximately 9:30 p.m. they observed a suspect in possession of a rifle shining a field with a handheld light. When Whidbee and Schrader identified themselves as officers and told the suspect to drop the weapon, he opened fire on the officers with a small caliber rifle. Both officers returned fire, but did not strike the suspect. When the suspect ran out of ammunition, he surrendered and was taken into custody.

Officer Whidbee suffered a gunshot wound to the left forearm and was treated and released from a local hospital.

The suspect, Douglas Roy Watson, 24, was transported to the DeKalb County Jail where he has been charged with second degree assault, attempted second degree assault and hunting at night.

Second degree assault is a Class C felony. If found guilty, the penalty can range from one year and one day to 10 years in prison and a monetary fine of up to $5,000. The penalty for night hunting if convicted is a fine of not less than $1,000 and no more than $2,000. The court could also revoke all hunting license privileges for a period of three years from the date of conviction. In addition, the suspect’s light and firearm can be confiscated and are subject to condemnation proceedings.           

Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley praised the officers for responsibly carrying out their job in such difficult circumstances. “I want to commend Officers Whidbee and Schrader for their bravery and skillful handling of such a challenging situation. Their behavior reflects the high caliber of personnel we have in our Enforcement Section.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Director M.N. “Corky” Pugh also commended the officers. “We are very thankful that our officers survived this potentially deadly encounter. This type of nighttime poaching complaint is extremely hazardous for our officers to work. The officers’ handled themselves very well under fire, which resulted in the capture and arrest of the violator.”

Allan Andress, chief of the Enforcement Section, said that Conservation officers never know what kinds of situations they will encounter. “Regardless of how routine our job appears at times, there is no such thing as a routine duty,” he said. “This simply reminds us of how hazardous an occupation our officers have.”