"In a sense, they are more at risk than some other law enforcement officers, they're out late at night in regions where most people have guns and often they are out there alone." - Lake County Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff
LAKE COUNTY - Two men busted for illegal hunting activity in Lake County late one September night are paying the price for their actions. On April 3, 2014 Salvador Cacho of Sunnyvale and Francisco Robledo of Yakima, Washington were sentenced for illegally spotlighting deer.
The pair were busted by California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) members and Fish and Wildlife Wardens Patrick Freeling and Mike Pascoe. Freeling and Pascoe were investigating illegal spotlighting activity in which poachers use artificial light to find game animals in the dark.
In the darkness of the Mendocino National Forest and with a surveillance aircraft above, Wardens Freeling and Pascoe tracked down two men who were shining flashlights outside the side windows of their vehicle. The wardens discovered the men had two hunting rifles, one of which was loaded, and two flashlights, one which was still on and had been stuffed between the vehicle's seats when the wardens approached.
Lake County Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff credits Fish and Wildlife wardens for the professional and successful, yet dangerous , work they conduct in Lake County. "In a sense they are more at risk than some other law enforcement officers, they're out late at night in regions where most people have guns and often they are out there alone," said Hinchcliff.
Suspects Cacho and Robledo denied spotlighting, telling the wardens they were simply bathing in the river. On April 3, as jury selection was about to begin, Cacho pleaded guilty to spotlighting and hunting at night. Robledo pleaded to possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle. The two were ordered to pay $1,155 in fines, sentenced to three years probation including no hunting for three years and were ordered to forfeit both rifles for destruction.
It is against the law to use any artificial light while in the possession of a firearm to look for game animals or to kill a game animal after dark.
"California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens provide a vital service protecting the preservation of California's fish and wildlife resources," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.
Warden Pascoe was also part of a nighttime investigation in August 2013 in which five men were busted for poaching by spotlighting. The men were spotlighting deer after midnight in Lucerne. They shot two doe deer, got back in their vehicle and drove away, abandoning the animals. In February 2014, all five were sentenced to three years probation with terms including no hunting and no firearms possession.. Two of the men were ordered to pay a fine and surrender their rifles for destruction. One man received a 30 day jail sentence for shooting the two deer.