Michigan man pleads guilty in case of confrontation with CO

Jackson, Mich. – A word of advice for outdoorsmen: There is no
room for carelessness and confrontation when hunting.

Three subjects from Jackson County found that to be true last
fall when a lack of preparedness was compounded by poor
decision-making in allegedly creating an incident that required
swift thinking on the part of two law enforcement officers.

Sgt. Troy Bahlau and CO Jeff Walker, of the DNR’s Law
Enforcement Division, responded to a complaint of a subject
shooting from an ORV in Jackson County’s Pulaski Township. When the
officers arrived on the scene, they said found that complaint would
be the least of their concerns.

According to Sgt. Bahlau, the officers initially came upon an
individual hunting in a tree and not wearing any type of hunter
orange. While CO Walker – an 18-year veteran with the DNR –
questioned the first subject, Sgt. Bahlau walked over to the other
side of a field to contact a second subject, allegedly using a
shotgun to hunt during the muzzleloading season. When Bahlau
approached the subject, he was met with resistance as the
individual refused to leave his blind.

The refusal to surrender and other conversation with the subject
signaled to Bahlau that a possible third subject was nearby. He
radioed Walker and advised him to be alert for a third subject.

After continued efforts, Bahlau was able to coax the individual
out of his blind, and as the two moved back to the initial site,
they saw Walker engaged with not one, but two subjects. One of
those subjects was subdued in handcuffs and was lying on the ground
after allegedly pointing a rifle at Walker.

“As I was apprehending the first subject and walking him back to
our vehicle to write him a ticket, my peripheral vision alerted me
to a third subject who was pointing a scope rifle in my direction,”
Walker told Michigan Outdoor News. “He had me in his sight and I
ducked, all the while informing him that I was a conservation
officer. As I ducked, he lowered his weapon, repositioning it right
at me a second time.”

With no cover or concealment, Walker said he instinctively
turned to his military training to douse what could have become a
volatile situation. In apprehending the first subject, Walker took
the first individual’s shotgun and emptied it of ammunition. He
proceeded to use that shotgun for his own defense as he pointed it
in the direction of the third subject, demanding he drop his
weapon. The subject, Fred Tucker, complied and was taken into
custody.

In searching Tucker, whose prior bouts with the law list him as
a convicted felon, CO Walker also found a .357 Magnum handgun in
his possession.

“In questioning the subject, he explained that he wanted to see
who I was, but I had already identified myself as an officer of the
law and instructed him to put the weapon down,” Walker said. “It
just wasn’t a smart move on his part and I can credit my military
training on saving my life and not doing any harm to myself or the
subject involved.”

Charges were brought against Tucker and they included felonious
assault on a law enforcement officer, assault with a dangerous
weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, felon in possession of a
firearm, and hunting while intoxicated.

According to the prosecutor’s office in Jackson County, Tucker
pleaded guilty to the concealed weapon charge as a habitual
offender – second offense in circuit court Feb. 23. He will be
sentenced April 16.

“Incidents like that don’t happen every day, but sometimes they
do happen,” said Bahlau, whose law enforcement days with the DNR
began in 1997. “If you’re a police officer, anytime a guy appears,
you immediately go into a felony mode and take all the precautions
necessary to keep the matter under control.

“But we can’t do that in our situation because we have to assume
everyone is carrying a firearm. There is the great unknown in our
line of work because you don’t know what you’re running into. That
was a low frequency/high risk situation and you have to approach
every one as a dangerous situation.”

Poaching continues to be a primary concern of the Law
Enforcement Division. Bahlau said individuals will go to all
extremes “to get that big buck on a pole.” He said reports have
come in of individuals in violation of hunting seasons, firearms,
licenses, safety zones, and even the use of infra-red lighting at
night.

“Many people, when they are caught poaching, take it real
personal,” Bahlau said. “They take it more personal than other
crimes and even respond by engaging in revenge crimes on law
enforcement individuals. There have been instances on family pets,
or houses, or even on their vehicles.

“You can never predict a person’s actions and what pushes them
into making bad decisions. When that occurs, you have to count on
your training and use your best judgement,” he said.

And Sgt. Bahlau’s words of advice for those future complaints
requiring law enforcement personnel: “There’s no reason to escalate
a situation. I tell them ‘look in the mirror and if it wasn’t for
your questionable actions, neither one of us would be here in the
first place.’ “

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