Details Emerge in Killing of PA Game Warden
By MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A felon caught poaching deer and a state
game warden who had him partly handcuffed engaged in a “ferocious
exchange of gunfire” that killed the officer and wounded the
suspect, who was arrested 11 hours later, authorities said.
David L. Grove, a 31-year-old wildlife conservation officer from
Fairfield, was fatally shot Thursday night in a rural area near
Eisenhower National Historic Site outside Gettysburg, police said.
The suspect, Christopher Lynn Johnson, 27, told police he fled with
the handcuffs locked on his left wrist and shot them off himself,
according to a police affidavit. He was arrested at a hunting camp
Grove had witnessed what he suspected was illegal night hunting
with a spotlight and had pulled over Johnson’s truck at about 10:30
p.m., police said. He had called in the license plate before “a
ferocious exchange of gunfire” occurred, state police Commissioner
Col. Frank Pawlowski said. Johnson and a passenger then fled,
Police said Johnson had an apparent gunshot wound to the hip
when he was caught, and he was treated at a hospital in York.
Authorities recovered a dead buck near the crime scene.
Grove was shot four times, and the fatal wound was to his neck,
Adams County Coroner Pat Felix said. He was the first Pennsylvania
game warden killed in the line of duty in 95 years.
The license plate number that Grove called in “was a critical
piece of information,” Pawlowski said.
“That gave us somewhere to go,” Pawlowski said.
Johnson, also of Fairfield, abandoned his truck and was limping
on foot when he flagged down a motorist and asked for help,
authorities said. The motorist took him to the hunting camp, and
police were waiting when he arrived Friday morning. The truck was
Johnson told police on the way to the hospital that he had shot
Grove with a .45-caliber handgun, authorities wrote in an
“He advised that he was a convicted felon in possession of a
firearm and did not want to go back to prison,” the investigating
He also told officers he had thrown the weapon into the woods
after shooting off the handcuffs.
Police filed charges of homicide, weapons and game offenses and
other counts, and Johnson was expected to be arraigned by
videoconference late Friday. Adams County District Attorney Shawn
Wagner said he would likely seek the death penalty. Court officials
said Johnson didn’t have a lawyer.
“This was a malicious act,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission
spokesman Jerry Feaser.
Grove enjoyed hunting and fishing and was an avid golfer, said
Robert Criswell, regional director for the game commission.
Johnson’s 19-year-old passenger, Ryan Laumann, was described by
police as a cooperating witness. The affidavit said that Laumann
told investigators he left the scene with Johnson without helping
Grove and that after a few minutes he repeatedly insisted that
Johnson let him out. Johnson stopped the truck and did so, then
drove away, Laumann told them.
Laumann’s lawyer, Steve Rice, said that his client gave police
information that may have helped them track down Johnson but that
charges could be filed against Laumann.
“I would think that that’s possible, but not homicide,” Rice
said. “I think he understands the gravity of the situation.”
The last Pennsylvania Game Commission officer to be shot and
killed in the line of duty was Joseph McHugh in Weatherly, Carbon
County, on Nov. 7, 1915.