Officer Down Memorial Post (10-00):
Christopher A. Upton (37)
killed on March 5th 2010
@ the Oconee National Forest, Georgia, United States

A USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement officer was fatally killed on, March 5th 2010 at the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Recreation Area on the Oconee Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Jasper County, Georgia.

Christopher Upton
Christopher Arby Upton, 37, of Monroe, Georgia, was on a routine patrol in the area about 11 p.m., where 2 hunters were hunting coyotes 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.

“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, Georgia, were hunting coyotes.

While hunting illegally, Hale discharged his rifle, striking Upton in the face. At the sentencing hearing, the government offered expert evidence that had Mr. Hale taken appropriate action, such as calling for emergency services and applying pressure to Officer Upton’s wound, Officer Upton could have survived.

Oconee National Forest
Instead, Mr. Hale waited one hour and 32 minutes before calling 911 and offered no aid to Officer Upton. Mr. Hale asked the other persons present to just leave and not report the incident. When they refused to do so, Mr. Hale then suggested they get four wheelers and drive them to where Officer Upton was and tell the police that they found Officer Upton’s body in this condition. Hale was sentenced on March 22nd 2012 before the Judge Marc T. Treadwell to to 60 months’ imprisonment.

Upton, a four-year veteran of the Forest Service, had previously worked as a game warden for the Department of Defense, U.S. 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.

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