USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Killed in Accidental Shooting

USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Killed in Accidental Shooting
The following is a joint release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division and the USDA, Forest Service.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Monticello, GA –-(AmmoLand.com)- A USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer was fatally shot Friday, March 5, at the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Recreation Area on the Oconee Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Jasper County.

The officer, Christopher Arby Upton, 37, of Monroe, GA, was on routine patrol in the area about 11 p.m. Two individuals were hunting coyote with a high-powered rifle equipped with night vision and apparently mistook the officer for game. After the shooting, the hunters dialed 911 and reported a hunting incident.

“This is a tragic incident where the loss of a Federal officer’s life could have been avoided,” said Steven Ruppert, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Southern Region of the Forest Service. “This is a devastating loss for Chris’ family, our agency, other law enforcement officers and his friends and neighbors in Monroe.

“All of our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Ruppert said. “The standard procedure for a hunter is to identify your target and then shoot,” said Homer Bryson, Law Enforcement Colonel for Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). “The hunter failed to do this, and mistook the officer for game. He then shot and instantly killed the officer.”

The shooter, Norman Clinton Hale, 40, McDonough, GA, and an observer, Clifford Allen McGouirk, 41, of Jackson, GA, were hunting coyotes. The incident investigation is being conducted jointly by the Forest Service and GDNR WRD and is ongoing.

Upton, a 4-year veteran of the Forest Service, had previously worked as a game warden for the Department of Defense, US Marine Corps, at Beaufort, South Carolina, and as a conservation officer, game warden and pilot with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and a 4-year-old daughter, Annabelle. Arrangements are pending.

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Amy
Amy
9 years ago

Not that anyone still reads this article, but thought I would provide an update on Mr. Hale and his deplorable actions. I clearly retract my previous statement that "he may in fact be a great man." I feel empathy for those friends who defended him and now realize the full extent of his actions that awful March night.

And for those of you who have chosen to attack Officer Upton, may you never have to know the pain that exists without him here.

Rest in Peace, Chris.

http://www.justice.gov/usao/gam/press_releases/20

Ed
Ed
10 years ago

No, I wasn't there. But, anyone with sense enough to breathe can't possibly confuse a two-legged, 6-foot tall human with a four-legged coyote. In a stretch I can see mistaking the neighbor's terrier. What was the officer doing?… wearing a fur suit and crawling around on all fours.?

This is not an accident… it isn't possible. At the very least it is gross negligence bordering on intentional murder.

w
w
11 years ago

It amazes me that so many people think they know what really happened that night. All of the sudden everyone is an expert.

Rick
Rick
11 years ago

Open & shut manslaughter case. nothing more, nothing less.

A Fellow
A Fellow
11 years ago

David more strict safety measures, you are blinded…. I am a LEO and hope you have since moved on. He was doing his job the one I'm sure he loved. Should be rules about driving on Public Roads too b/c possibly of encountering a drunk driver o even better a deer. Point made I hope. And if you were an LEO you should know that lesser things can get you killed "game violation notice" please…. Inherently dangerous job and I speak for myself and possibly others when I say it’s not a job but a way of "life". “Held in… Read more »

David
David
11 years ago

There are already laws in place and more "laws "will not make anything better.I am a former LEO,but I am not blinded by this.This whole situation is very said and my prayers go out to BOTH sides.Nobody is perfect.People make mistakes everyday.Those who say the shooter should get the death penalty should really be ashamed.There were mistakes made on both sides.Maybe night hunting on "public" land should be stopped,it's to hard to insure your target is what it is supposed to be.The USDA and DNR are partly resonsible for the officers death.He should have never gone out in the woods… Read more »

Nora
Nora
11 years ago

What a horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers should be with this public servant's family, friends, and colleagues. When will people stop equating responsible firearms training, testing, and licensing requirements with total loss of gun rights? The former protects everyone and preserves gun rights – the latter is exploitative hyperbole from moral criminals like the NRA. Sportsmen and rural Americas are smarter than conservative political organizations give us credit for – it's past time we stop letting them put ignorant words in our mouths and stand up for responsible gun laws.

scott
scott
11 years ago

we lay our beloved chris to rest today may all you prayers be with his wife and daughter today for this is a very sad time i really wish that all of us not bash the officer or the two hunters anymore chris was my cousin and i am deeply hurt by this and will truley miss him but as for the hunters justice will be done and the whole truth will come out when they are fully investigated i believe they are guilty in part but that is my thought but i am related to chris i know the… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

I pray for all that are involved. Both families are suffering.

Jack
Jack
11 years ago

Hilary, have you heard from any of the folks that know the shooter? by all accounts he is a law abiding sportsmen and a good and decent man. Not a criminal act but an accident.

hilary leblanc
hilary leblanc
11 years ago

25 to life would make me happy for this pair of fools…it never is or was a gun problem… just a criminal problem…jail and the death penality solves the problem…

Jack
Jack
11 years ago

I have taken my time in posting this because I had an incident with Ranger Upton 3 years ago that resulted in my filing a complaint against him with the USDA . During this incident he was not very professional and spiritually I am having a hard time with this because of the anger I had towards this officer who is now deceased. The reason I write this is because of the people calling for the head of this hunter, while identifying your target is without a doubt the utmost responsibility of the shooter you have to understand that an… Read more »

Dalynn
Dalynn
11 years ago

Jay, comment at March 9th, 4:51 PM, absolutely right on! I couldn't agree more!

Dalynn
Dalynn
11 years ago

A few comments. 1) A CHRIS above mentioned (March 7th, 12:54 PM reply) this, "When you night hunt, which is legal, you have to shoot at the eyes of the target reflecting back at you." Chris a human eyes do NOT glow nor "reflect" in the dark when hit by light like animal eyes do…..try it if you don't believe me. 2) In general, to even try and justify this as an accident where everyone SHOULD move on is ludicrous…..Even if legally hunting at night, if you mistake a 190 lb man for a 30 lb coyote, there is a… Read more »

chirs
chirs
11 years ago

it is against the law to hunt a night for any thang expect for racoons and u can not use night vision im a retired ga dnr officer

Jay
Jay
11 years ago

Absolutely no excuse. None. I have NEVER had an accidental disharge, never accidentaly shot the wrong animal. There are no accidents when it comes to guns and safety. I dont care why a shooting happens, its not an accident. You accidentally pull the trigger? B.S. Why was your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot? It just went off!! B.S. Why wasnt your muzzle pointed in a safe direction and the gun not loaded until you are in your hunting area? AND he had a night vision optic? WOW! The first gen night vision was bad, but… Read more »

A friend of Clint&#0
A friend of Clint&#0
11 years ago

Matt, go back and read what "Just lookin' at both sides" had to say, the officer was lying on the ground. I feel so bad for all involved! Clint is a good man too.

Matt
Matt
11 years ago

Was the officer crawling around on all fours with a dog suit on? No!

The hunter was negligent and it cost a child their father who is irreplaceable.

He deserves to go to jail for life but he'll probably get off and live free while someone who served his country with honor lies in the cold ground, his family left to wonder why?

Harriet
Harriet
11 years ago

I never met Chris, but knew first hand how caring a man he really was. Being an outsider, I only know how he continually cared for my brother who is homeless due to losing his job, etc….and was living in a camper where Chris patrolled. Chris met my brother and assured him things would turn around and not to worry about having to leave the site where he was. He told my brother that he would come out and check on him from time to time to make sure he was ok and didn't need anything…water, etc… He actually took… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

I am not against hunting or for gun control. However, if you are holding a lethal weapon with the specific purpose of killing you have an increased responsibility to make sure of your target. When you know that when you aim, pull the trigger and hit your target, a living creature is going to die, then the bar of due diligence is raised. Especially at night when you know that your vision is compromised. Hunters are not the only ones with the right to be in the woods. Law enforcement for one, campers for another. This was not an "accident".… Read more »

Just looking at both
Just looking at both
11 years ago

Charlie you are wrong. You can hunt coyotes at night and you can use night vision. Just because you have hunted all your life does not mean you know all the rules. Read the regulations. If it was illegal the two would have been arrested that night. Get a grip. DNR does not let you walk away after that if you have been drinking, on drugs, or doing anything against the law. People love to second guess people without the facts. The hunters were hunting legally. They had loud calls they were playing again and again. The DNR officer was… Read more »

charlie
charlie
11 years ago

the 2 hunters should go to jail for life the only thang u can hunt in ga at night is racoons that is all and u r not allowed to use a night vision scope either and u can tell the differnce between a man and a dog so they hunters were wtong and hsould be tookin to jail i have been hunting in ga since i have be old enought to hunt my prayers go out to family of the officer

Chris P.
Chris P.
11 years ago

I have known Clint for multiple years now – I work with him and have found him to posses an honorable soul. He is one of the most responsible people that I know.

The most presious entity that I have in this world is my 14 year old son. He has recently expressed an interest in learning to hunt. Clint is one of only 3 or 4 people on this planet that I would trust to take him hunting. This is a terrible accident and only God understands why such things occure. Pray for all parties.

robert
robert
11 years ago

this was a terrible accident for sure. could it have been avoided, Yes! by hunter and leo and the department. next time you drive a car be careful that you dont fail into some terrible accident yourself, a moment looking at your radio,backing out of the drive way, talking on your cell phone or even daydreaming or sleepy. there are so many accidents and mistaken identiy that happens be careful on who u condemn. i police officer a few months ago accident killed a fellow policemen in az state. family members have backed over their kids, and or brother or… Read more »

Mike
Mike
11 years ago

One comment. No sympathy for the man behind the trigger. He pulled it. He killed another. He deserves the maximum sentence behind bars. No sympathy. Just justice.

scott
scott
11 years ago

I agree with Amy I'm not lashing out at any one it is not my place. I just think there is more to the story accident or not we will truely never know, and one day we will all have to make peace with god. May my cousin rest in peace and his memory truely be honered in the matter it should. For the hunters involved I hope it was truely a accident and that you can make peace with what has happened cause this is something you can never forget but one day find forgivness.Chris Upton's memory needs to… Read more »

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

This was the exact reason I suppose I hesitated even commenting on this article, but felt it was important to at least make known what a loss it is with Chris gone. I feel everyone is all too apt to defend "hunters" and the "right to bear arms" argument when forgetting the real tragedy here. I realize that some of my family have lashed out against Mr. Hale in their sorrow. I do not wish to attack his character, for it is something I know nothing of. But the fact remains – however tortured his heart may be, he still… Read more »

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

I want to say I am truly sorry for Chris's family. I am sure he was a wonderful and doting father and husband. I am also sorry for Clint's family. He too I hear is a doting father and husband. I too lost my father at age 14. Its a tragic loss but we are taught to forgive and pray for those of us who are left here to deal with the mess. Chris's young daughter can hear wonderful stories about her daddy and know she was loved. I love for my mom to tell me stories of my father.… Read more »

Yager
Yager
11 years ago

Amy Said "We all must be held accountable for our actions. Years of being a “safe” hunter does not give anyone a “free pass” to make a tragic and careless mistake. EVER. Much like the “safe” driver who CHOOSES to drive drunk one night and as a result may take the life of another. While perhaps unintentional, the fact remains that a CHOICE was made and as a result tragic consequences occur. Accountability is not absolved by “not meaning to do it.”' Well Amy I lost my wife years ago to a mistake a doctor made. Is that the same… Read more »

michael
michael
11 years ago

i feel that this was no accident i 35 yrs of age have hunted all my life always knew what i was shootin i havnt talked much with my cousin chris much since we were kids i feel bad for that at this tim of need for family and friends my heart goes out to jessica and daughter in which i hav yet met yet i hope that one day i may and let her know how her father was as a cousin my heart also goes out to other family members who i hav nt seen or met in… Read more »

Tom
Tom
11 years ago

When I heard of this tragedy I was not much involved as most of the time until I read the internet about who it was that did the shooting. I do know Clint Hale and do not know the officer. Ths is sad and I listened to Clint and what he had to say. He is in a condition I have never seen him in before over this. He cried the whole time he was talking to me about this and was so overcome with grief. Clint is a good hearted man with good family values. He told me the… Read more »

scott
scott
11 years ago

chris was my cousin and even though we did not keep in touch like we should i truely regret it cause now i can not ever tell him how proud of him i am. His loss is truely a tragedy that should have never happened. I am a hunter and ther is now way this would of happened if they would of been truely following safety. I believe in my heart that there is more to the story even though they called 911 they were up to no good and were about to get caught and did not think of… Read more »

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

The loss of Chris' life has left a gaping hole in our family's heart that will be everlasting. We are grieving the loss of a man who was a great friend, husband and father. His beautiful wife and precious daughter now have to face a future without him in it. You have never seen a man more in love with his daughter than Chris – she was his world. The thought of her growing up without her Daddy haunts me. However "accidental" the shooter may claim the incident was, the fact remains that a moment of recklessness cost a dear… Read more »

A Fellow
A Fellow
11 years ago

"you have to shoot" "accident” I don’t see any reason you would have to shot or how this would be an accident. "The best job he could to identify his target" wasn't good enough. You know your target or you don't and a good ethical hunter would have known but 20/20 means nothing in the end. I pray for all parties involved and support the Officer's Family, Friends, and Agency fully.

This act was reckless and avoidable.

chris
chris
11 years ago

I just found out about this. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I know Clint personally. He is an ethical hunter. He is a family man and a good person. Accidents happen. They would have been hunting under legal parameters. This is a terrible accident. But I would encourage everyone to find out all the facts. When you night hunt, which is legal, you have to shoot at the eyes of the target reflecting back at you. I know the Officer was doing his job and I respect that but the hunter was also taking the best care… Read more »

chris
chris
11 years ago

I did not know chris personnally only in passing. I did not know the hunters or what type of people they are. I do know that we as LEO's do a job that know wants to do. We work hard, long hours and alone protecting the land and it's people. We are hated by most and disliked by all. His death was senseless and avoidable. These men are of low class and diserve all that the courts can throw at then and the harshest punishment is what they diserve. My prayers and thoughts go out to the family of Officer… Read more »

Tommy
Tommy
11 years ago

Chris was my nephew and I loved him like a son. His smile, his sense of humor, and his love of his family made him one of the treasures of life. I will surely miss him. My daughter and I was talking today & she mentioned that she was going to join the anti-gun movement. I told her that it had nothing to do with the gun, it had to do with the person using the gun. I can not understand the stupidity of someone with a scope on a rifle, shooting a person, thinking it was game; especially a… Read more »

AmmoLand
11 years ago
Reply to  Tommy

You have our deepest condolences and the support of the Ammoland community, our hope is that all hunters learn through this tragedy so that your nephews loss becomes a stark reminder that we all need to religiously follow the simple rules of hunter safety.

Fredy – AmmoLand Editor

Tammy
Tammy
11 years ago

This was my family so I Agree with you guys if you dont know what you are shooting then You should not shoot. I lost my wonderful cousing because of these idiots. You had no right to take him away from us in this way!!!! Now his beautiful daughter Annabella and his wife Jessica there hearts and the rest of our families heart will forever have a missing part!!!! I hope you spend the rest of your lives seeing there faces and his in your every waking moment and in your nightmares at night!!!

Fed
Fed
11 years ago

I agree a lot of hunters mix alcohol while hunting, and then cry foul that the "gov't" is taking away their rights. I hope this shooter frys, he has no business owning any weapons.

johnny law
johnny law
11 years ago

Accidental my ass. You gun XXXX [editorial edit for hate speech policy violation] need to get a grip and stop defending idiots who shouold not be out of sight of their momma.