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06-14-07, 09:26 PM #1
Virginia Game Warden indicted in shooting death
Story I heard was that the boy tried to run over the officer and the officer shot him while on the hood of the car
Game warden indicted in shooting
BY SUSAN GIBBS
Greene County's grand jury returned an indictment on Monday for voluntary manslaughter against Game Warden Robert O. Ham III in the January 24 shooting death of 16-year-old Allen Cochran of Ruckersville, said Commonwealth Attorney Ronald L. Morris on Tuesday.
Morris made the decision to take the case before the grand jury because, he says, given the facts of the investigation, he thought the action "appropriate."
Once the investigating officer -- Dino Cappuzzo of the Virginia State Police -- presented the evidence, the grand jury had three choices: to bring no charges; to return an indictment for second degree murder; or, to return an indictment for voluntary manslaughter.
"Second degree murder," Morris explains, means that the killing was done with malice aforethought. Voluntary manslaughter is a lesser charge."
The legal definition of voluntary manslaughter is a killing done with no malice aforethought, but when "heated passion" exists, Morris continues.
Morris adds that he cannot discuss evidence at this point, and cautions, "This is just an indictment; it's just a finding. It doesn't mean that (Ham is) guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Cochran's mother, Danielle Cochran Ramirez, refused to comment for this article.
Speaking for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), Chief of Law Enforcement Col. Mike Bise said, "We're deeply disturbed by the indictment of Officer Rob Ham ... While we are not privy to the full state police investigation, our administrative review indicates officer Ham reacted appropriately to a real threat."
According to information released by VDGIF soon after the shooting in January, Ham was in the Greene County Sheriff's Office when an alert was sent out for an "endangered missing juvenile" female who may have been abducted by a juvenile male who was "possibly armed" and had "made threats to multiple individuals."
After learning of the indictment, Bise said of Ham: "This young officer was simply acting in response to a request for help by another agency."
About 6 p.m. that evening, authorities stopped Cochran's vehicle as it reached the intersection of 33 and the entrance to the subdivision. According to reports, Ham was in front of the vehicle Cochran was driving, when Cochran accelerated, hitting Ham, and Ham discharged his firearm.
In reaction to news of the indictment, Bise said that Ham, " … in fact was injured by the actions of another (while reacting appropriately to a threat).
At the time of the incident, Greene's Sheriff Scott Haas told the Greene County Record that County officers immediately turned the case over to state authorities that were already on the scene.
"We secured the crime scene and directed traffic," Haas explained at that time.
Haas said on Tuesday that he was surprised to hear of the voluntary manslaugher indictment.
"By hearing the statements of the witnesses, I was surprised."
Regarding the indictment, Haas says: "Our system is set up to hear all the evidence and make a determination, and that is now set in motion. Our office will provide any information to that end."
At the time of the incident, state police would not comment at the time as to whether or not a weapon was found inside the car Cochran was driving. Now, they refer all questions to Morris.
Following the incident, Cochran's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Richmond for autopsy.
Ham was taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center for treatment after the incident.
Ham was held overnight and released the next day.
Ham graduated from the 34-week VDGIF Basic Training Academy in March 2006 and was sworn in as a game warden. At that time he was given The Top Shot Award for having the highest overall qualification scores on all firearms courses.
At the time the incident was reported, VDGIF explained that though game wardens usually focus on wildlife and boating laws, Virginia game wardens are law enforcement officers and do work with local law enforcement providing support for manhunts, search and rescue, and other enforcement efforts.
On April 25, 2007, VDGIF issued a press release stating that effective July 1, 2007 Virginia's game wardens will be called "conservation police officers … The name change is intended to clarify the authority of these officers who have full police powers and statewide jurisdiction."
After the incident, VDGIF told the Record that Ham had been placed on paid administrative leave until the state police completed its investigation into the shooting.
After the indictment was handed down, when asked if Ham was still employed by VDGIF, Bise said, "Yes." Ham, Bise explained is employed in a non-law enforcement role. Bise added: "We look forward to the facts of this matter receiving full and impartial judicial review."
Bise refused at first request the Record's request for a photograph of Ham.
"I'm not going to give one up voluntarily," Bise said. "You're going to have to force my hand with FOIA."
FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act. By law, one entity requesting information from another needs to put the request for said information in writing. At Record press time, according to a VDGIF spokesman, the Department had not reached a decision as to whether to release photos of Ham.
Raised in Roanoke, Ham graduated from Bridgewater College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a pre-med focus.
While in college he joined the Bridgewater Volunteer Rescue Squad and was an active member for four years, rising in rank from sergeant to lieutenant.
Voluntary manslaughter is a felony. If convicted, Ham could serve between a minimum on one year and a maximum of ten years in prison.
Ham is scheduled to appear in General District Court here on Tuesday, June 19 at 9:30 a.m.
http://www.greene-news.com/news1.shtml"And don't go home, and don't go to eat, and don't play with yourself. It wouldn't look nice on my highway", Buford T. Justice
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06-14-07, 09:30 PM #2
They'd better find him not guilty. Period. And if they don't, I wonder what their reaction would be if someone was trying to run them over.\\` ` ` ` < ` )___/\
`` ` ` ` (3--(____)
"...but to forget your duck, of course, means you're really screwed." - Gary Larson
06-14-07, 11:10 PM #3
Always remember the old saw....the DA "can indict a ham sandwich". Seems like another DA with no respect for LEOs.
06-14-07, 11:21 PM #4ughStupidity Recognition Technician
06-15-07, 03:03 PM #5
Was Nifong the consulting DA on this?Remember: if their lips are moving ... they're lying
06-15-07, 04:45 PM #6CorporalVerified LEO
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06-15-07, 04:54 PM #7
You have to wonder how much these DA's allow public opinion, political correctness, and media bias to influence their decisions on these things, without giving any thought to the emotional and psychological damage it inflicts on an already traumatized officer and the officer's family.*************************"It wouldn't take much for me to up and run...to another life somewhere in the sun."*************************"There's something inherently wrong with having to put on a bullet-proof vest and a gun to go to work."-(An old friend)
Any statements or opinions given in my postings or profile do not reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employer or anyone else other than me. They are my personal opinions or statements only, thereby releasing my employer , any other entity, or any other person of any liability or involvement in anything posted under the username "Cidp24" on O/R.
06-15-07, 10:52 PM #8
Cidp......There's no wondering as long as the DA is an elected official........justice be d*mned as they pander to the PC crowd for the next election. In the 80's in NYC, 5 Transit cops were indicted for the death of a "grafiti artist". The case was championed by a local newsman and brought to the grand jury. The jurors saw through the crap and voted no true bill. The activists were outraged, saw the ball-less DA went back to the GJ with a different theory....a theory so scary it sent me to law school. After a 6 month trial the jury acquitted on all counts. Never consider a DA to be on your side they're as dangerous as the press.
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