Washington game wardens are investigating a bizarre incident involving a dead blacktail deer literally pumped full of lead, five people found a few miles away, and the recovery of numerous firearms with missing serial numbers or without any at all.
“We still don’t know for sure what happened,” said WDFW Sgt. Kim Chandler this afternoon. “They either flat-out poached a deer or, according to them, hit it with their car and shot it 100 times.”
“I don’t know if it was 100 times, but there were shell casings from three different weapons,” he said.
What is known is that last Friday four men and a woman whose ages and hometowns weren’t immediately available apparently drove up the North Fork Road outside North Bend east of Seattle for whatever reason and at some point 3 to 4 miles from the end of the gravel they encountered the deer.
Chandler said that there was a small crack and some deer hair on the bumper of their car, and that the deer had a broken leg, which might suggest it was run into.
But he also said the leg could have been broken due to the “dozens of dozens of rounds” of .223 and 9mm ammo shot at the animal.
The carcass was butchered — “They obviously didn’t know what they were doing,” the officer said — and put in a cooler, and the quintet apparently continued to the end of the road in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for the night.
On Saturday, a hiker came upon the remains of the deer “in the middle of the road” and called it in as a poaching, according to Chandler.
A WDFW officer dispatched to the scene found it and in trying to figure out what had happened, called in another warden to help.
As they searched the area past the carcass and shells in the road they came across two men and a woman asleep in a car, with one of the men “on top of all kinds of AR-15s,” said Chandler.
After the trio were woken up, one of the firearms — a 9mm AR-15 pistol — came back as stolen, while others — which Chandler described as “AR-15 build-it-yourself weapons” — didn’t have serial numbers whatsoever.
When they were asked who the vehicle belonged to, they gave a name of a man who was not present and who they said had gone hiking.
As the officers were talking with the three, that man apparently came down the trail while carrying a .380-caliber handgun, along with a fifth person carrying an “assault rifle,” Chandler said.
“They did a double take, saw all the police, and headed into the brush,” he said.
That precipitated a call for backup to the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and a canine unit, which caught the attention Living Snoqualmie, which first reported the incident.
Once the officers were all assembled, a public address system was used to call in the two individuals who’d run off.
The man who allegedly owned the car came out, though not with the handgun he’d been carrying, nor with the fifth person, who never came out, Chandler said.
The end of the North Fork Road is about 24 miles from North Bend.
As things began to get sorted out, it was discovered that one of the men who’d been asleep in the car with all the ARs was a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be around guns at all.
He was subsequently booked into King County Jail, Chandler said.
Chandler said he’s seen a lot of cases in his years with WDFW but this turned out to be among the more unusual ones.
“At the very least, it’s a violation of the (roadkill) salvage law. You have to wait for an officer to dispatch” struck and injured animals, he said.
“These guys didn’t have a clue about the salvage law, but now they do.”
While happy that the situation wasn’t anything like it seemed like — the parade of police vehicles heading up the North Fork Road sparked a rumor that a WDFW warden had been shot, Chandler said — and that nobody got hurt, it’s still an active investigation.
“It turned into a whole lot more than a poached deer,” he said. “Some serious stuff there. The ATF is very interested in all the guns without serial numbers.”
He said the state crime lab might also be able to raise those that had been filed off one weapon.