New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MAY 22, 2008:

CONSERVATION OFFICER CLEARED IN INVESTIGATION

GALLUP – An investigation by the McKinley County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Game and Fish have concluded a complaint against Conservation Officer Craig Sanchez was based on insufficient and conflicting evidence. Therefore, District Attorney Karl Gillson has declined to prosecute Sanchez.

In a complaint to the Department, Olin Clawson of Ramah reported that on Sept. 24, 2007, he saw Sanchez chase deer with a pickup truck, and then shoot a deer while seated in the vehicle, both are illegal in New Mexico. Both agencies reviewed the evidence and information in the compliant. Sanchez has never denied hunting deer on the day in question, and has maintained that all his actions were lawful.

A District Attorney Investigator who investigated the complaint reported that the photographs that Clawson provided depicting the illegal activity were "very blurry and grainy" and depicted an unknown male allegedly shooting from a parked pickup truck. Clawson said he witnessed the incident through a 60-power spotting scope.

As part of the investigation, investigators conducted a re-enactment based on the alleged account, as well as facts known about Sanchez’s hunt. The re-enactment of the alleged account revealed that Clawson was likely 740 yards away from the unidentified male in the photo. Clawson declined to provide original digital photographs to investigators for review.

The investigator’s re-enactment of the hunt indicated that Sanchez was standing outside his vehicle when he shot the deer. Two other witnesses indicated Sanchez was not chasing or harassing the deer, according to the investigation.

Sanchez, an 11-year veteran with the Department, was fully licensed and had written permission from the private landowner when he shot the mule deer buck during the fall muzzleloader season.

"The Department takes complaints of illegal hunting very seriously, especially if they involve a conservation officer," Deputy Director Bob Jenks said. "In this case, we are pleased that investigators independent of our Department were able to substantiate our own investigation."

Anyone with information about a wildlife crime is encouraged to call Operation Game Thief toll-free, (800) 432-4263. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards if information leads to charges being filed.

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