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Poachers in Northern California shoot at game warden during nighttime police chase

A California game warden was shot at last weekend by a group of poachers who were illegally hunting wildlife in Humboldt County, authorities said.

The warden was not injured in the incident, which occurred just before 1 a.m. Sunday near Highway 36 and Redwood House Road, about 30 miles southeast of Eureka, according to Capt. Patrick Foy of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The officer had been working his standard patrol duty and looking out for spotlighting — which is when poachers aim bright lights at deer or other animals, causing the animals to freeze in their tracks. Foy said poachers generally stay in their cars as they travel down roads through the wilderness at night.

“They usually shoot from the [car’s] cab,” he added.

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The officer spotted the poachers and attempted to make a traffic stop, but at least one person inside the car opened fire toward the officer. The car sped away but the officer gave chase, and “repeated” gunshots were fired toward the officer during the pursuit, Foy said.

The officer was armed but did not return fire. Officers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife are involved in an average of one police shooting a year, Foy said.

The chase came to an end when the poachers crashed into a tree, jumped out of the car and fled on foot into the woods.

The officer was close enough to hear the suspects, but chose to wait for backup before continuing the pursuit. Most wildlife officers work alone while on patrol, and in remote areas, backup can take 10 minutes or longer, Foy said.

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Authorities searched the area but did not locate the suspects, who left their getaway car behind.

The Humboldt County sheriff’s office was leading the investigation into the shooting and pursuit. Authorities did not provide descriptions of the poachers.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno.


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