Wildlife Conservation Officer Killed In Night Poaching Case
STAFF WRITER A Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer with ties to Fulton County was slain last Thursday night by a convicted felon suspected of poaching a four-point buck in a rural area near Eisenhower National Historic Site just outside Gettysburg.
Southern Adams County WCO David L. Grove was reportedly investigating complaints of nighttime shooting in the area when he stopped a blue 1999 Chevrolet 4X4 truck with Pennsylvania registration at 10:32 p.m. on Veterans Day.
Working alone that evening, Grove called in the vehicle stop on Shrivers Road in Freedom Township to Adams County Control. Moments later he requested backup due to the possibility of weapons inside the truck. A Cumberland Township police officer arrived just two minutes later and found Grove dead of a gunshot wound behind his state vehicle.
The details between Grove’s last transmission and the arrival of the fellow officer are sketchy, although charging documents indicate a “ferocious exchange of gunfire” occurred between Grove and suspect Christopher Lynn Johnson, 27, of Carroll Fairfield, Pa. Furthermore, Grove had managed to get one handcuff on Johnson’s wrist before the shooting occurred.
Meanwhile, Johnson was struck once in the hip and drove away from the scene with 19-yearold passenger Ryan Laumann, also of the Fairfield area. Laumann, the affidavit of probable cause states, made repeated pleas to be left out of the truck. Johnson complied and left him out before abandoning his own vehicle and hitching a ride with a passing motorist to his hunting camp on Ortanna Road.
Law enforcement officials were waiting at the camp when Johnson arrived at 9:35 a.m. on Friday morning. He was taken to the hospital for treatment before being arraigned late Friday on charges of criminal homicide, possession of a firearm prohibited, flight to avoid apprehension, firearms not to be carried without a license, possession of an instrument of crime, resisting arrest, unlawful use of an artificial light (spotlighting), killing of wildlife in a closed season.
Laumann is a cooperating witness in the case and may have provided police with crucial information regarding the evening’s chain of events. It is still possible he could be charged in connection with the incident.
Grove, a native of neighboring Franklin County, had several ties to Fulton County area, including several hunting companions and favorite hunting locations in Union Township area. Grove’s most prominent connection, however, is with Fulton County WCO Kevin Mountz, who first encountered the “very enthusiastic young man” in 2000 at an introduction to wildlife class in Mont Alto.
Professor Beth Brantley shared with Mountz that there was a young man in the class interested in the Game Commission deputy program. One year later, Grove secured his deputy commission and joined the ranks of deputies working the southern Franklin County area under Mountz’s direction.
“His goal was to become a WCO. I could actually see it in him,” recalled Mountz. “He was well on his way early on.”
Grove and Mountz worked side by side in Franklin County through 2004 until Mountz transferred to Fulton County. Grove remained on the deputy roster through 2007 and then enrolled in the Ross Leffler School of Conservation. He received his commission in 2008 and was sent to southern Adams County.
“My favorite memory of Dave was on his graduation day. The 50 weeks of training is tough on everyone, but it was especially tough on Dave because he loved the job and took it so seriously. I’ll never forget the smile on his face that day. I was so proud,” said Mountz, who thought of Grove as not only a brother in law enforcement who was quickly moving up through the ranks, but also as a son.
Mountz said, just like any other officer, Grove was very familiar with the more dangerous aspects and hazards of the job, but never complained and even logged more hours than most.
“He had no regrets. He loved his work ... . He was so full of life and positive energy. If you could have bottled all of that and sold it, you could have powered a space shuttle,” Mountz stated.
A viewing for Grove has been scheduled for Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home in Waynesboro. Law enforcement officers are encouraged to attend between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Grove’s body will be laid to rest following a funeral service that will begin promptly at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, at Waynesboro High School. More than 2,000 attendees are expected, so early arrival is suggested.