A DEC enforcement officer is recovering after being shot while on a poaching investigation. Thursday, DEC and police condemned the shooting as a crime. Geoff Redick reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. — The Department of Environmental Conservation joined with the Police Benevolent Association of New York on Thursday, condemning the man suspected of shooting a DEC enforcement officer during a poaching investigation.
Alan Blanchard, 55, was arrested Tuesday evening and charged with felony assault. State Police said Blanchard was hunting in the dark Tuesday in the town of Gallatin, with a friend. DEC officer James Davey was dispatched to that same area to investigate a report of illegal hunting.
Davey, a 12-year DEC veteran, walked into a dark corn field and was shot in the pelvis. He was seriously injured, and was taken to Mid-Hudson Hospital in Poughkeepsie for emergency surgery. Davey is now in stable condition.
Blanchard and his friend were discovered a short distance away from the shooting scene, armed with a .30-30 rifle. After remaining to aid in Davey's rescue, Blanchard was arrested and charged with felony second-degree assault. He is jailed without bail, and will return to court on December 8.
Bllanchard may eventually face additional charges, according to officials.
After visiting Davey in the hospital and gathering their thoughts, both the PBA union and the DEC blasted Blanchard and his friend on Thursday.
"This was not a hunter. This was someone who was poaching," said DEC commissioner Basil Seggos. "Hunters do not shoot in the dark. Hunters do not aim wildly. And they certainly do not shoot at our ECO's."
Officials bristled at the notion that a State Police news release, and subsequent media coverage, had referred to the incident as a "hunting accident" or an "accidental shooting."
"We read some articles about, 'two hunters shot an ECO in the leg, and they got arrested,'" said Joseph Schneider, DEC's director of law enforcement. "This is obviously much more serious than that."
The union for DEC officers, forest rangers and other non-trooper state officers said Thursday that it did not wish to criticize anyone's wording of the case, but did strongly condemn the idea that Davey's close call was an accident.
"This was reckless, this was dangerous — this was stupid," said Dan De Federicis, the executive director for PBA of New York State. "Legitimate hunters do not shoot in the dark."
That is why DEC staged a hunting safety conference for news cameras Thursday: to remind hunters not to act illegally, or dangerously.
"There are four basic rules," said hunting safety instructor Colleen Kimble. "Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction; treat every gun as if it was loaded; know your target and what's beyond it; and keep your finger out of the trigger guard."
"Hunting is a safe sport," reiterated commissioner Seggos. "Injuries are avoidable when safety is paramount."
The DEC emphasized a 24-hour hotline it operates, where state residents can report incidents of illegal hunting and poaching: 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).