COLUMBUS GROVE, O. - An Allen County hunter accused of pointing a rifle at a state wildlife officer said he went for his rifle only after the officer pulled his gun and told him to freeze.
Joe Ogle said yesterday that he had just picked up his two young children from his ex-wife's house and returned about 5:15 p.m. Thursday to find Officer Joel Buddelmeyer in his driveway.
“As I get out of the vehicle, he meets me at the vehicle and stops me and says he needs to speak with me right now,” Mr. Ogle said. “I said: `Just a minute. I don't know what your deal is.' I kept on walking toward the door, and he pulled his gun and told me to freeze.”
Mr. Ogle admitted he pointed a rifle at the officer, but he said he did that only after the officer threatened to shoot, and his wife, who was inside the house, reminded him his children were still outside.
“I freaked. I ran upstairs and grabbed my rifle and ran out on the deck,” Mr. Ogle said. “By that time he was backing out of the driveway.”
Mr. Ogle, who was taken into custody about 6:30 p.m. by Allen County sheriff's deputies and released later Thursday, has not been charged in the case. Allen County Sheriff Dan Beck said the investigation would be turned over to the county prosecutor to review and determine whether charges should be filed.
“It appears to me to be a felony offense,” Sheriff Beck said.
Officer Buddelmeyer would not comment yesterday.
Terry Sunderhaus, law enforcement supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources's District II office in Findlay, would not comment on Mr. Ogle's version of the events but said Officer Buddelmeyer was not the first to draw his weapon.
He said the officer went to Mr. Ogle's Olt Road home a few miles south of Columbus Grove to talk to him about a complaint that Mr. Ogle had been hunting on private property without permission.
“At the time of the contact, a firearm was displayed and our wildlife officer unholstered his firearm,” Mr. Sunderhaus said. “There were no shots fired.”
Officer Buddelmeyer, 31, was commissioned a wildlife officer in March, 1999. Yesterday he was filling out a use of force report, a document that is required whenever a wildlife officer takes his or her gun out of the holster, Mr. Sunderhaus said.
“That report is forwarded to Columbus to our law enforcement section. It will be reviewed to see if the officer acted properly,” he said, adding that he believes the officer took the appropriate action.
“I have spoken at length with Officer Buddelmeyer, and according to his report, I see no violation in any policy or procedure,” Mr. Sunderhaus said.
Mr. Ogle, who is a blacksmith, said he does not know why the officer was at his house but speculated that his hunting friends had parked his van on private property while they were hunting that day.
Jane Beathard, spokeswoman for ODNR's Division of Wildlife, said cases in which a wildlife officer and a member of the public both draw their guns are “extremely rare.”
“In this day and age many people are just kind of allergic to the uniform,” she said.
Mr. Sunderhaus said wildlife officers have an exceptionally dangerous job, especially during hunting seasons, such as the deer gun season that ends today simply because most of the individuals they approach are carrying weapons and most of the encounters are in remote locations.
“I'd like to remind folks that 99 per cent of the hunters, fishermen, and trappers that we encounter year round are good, honest sportsmen,” Mr. Sunderhaus said. “Of course with the number of contacts we make, we do at times run into situations.”
All state wildlife officers are commissioned peace officers who carry a handgun and a radio for communications with their local sheriff's offices and ODNR headquarters in Columbus.