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Posted January 16, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Ranger under investigation, on administrative leave

By Joe Beck

The U.S. Forest Service has placed a ranger on administrative leave as he faces three gun-related charges following his arrest Monday night at his home in Strasburg.

JoBeth Brown would not comment on whether the ranger, Damion James McElroy, 39, of 762 Christianson Drive, was placed on leave because of the incident in which he is accused of firing a handgun once in his home.

Brown said the agency has launched its own investigation of McElroy, but she refused to provide any more information.

She defined administrative leave as "when you are out of the office. You're not working here, but you still have your job."

Shenandoah County authorities said Thursday that McElroy remained in jail pending a possible mental health evaluation. McElroy is charged with discharging a gun within town limits, discharging a gun in an occupied dwelling and reckless handling of a firearm.

Strasburg police arrested McElroy on Monday night after fielding a complaint around 6 p.m. that he had fired a shot into a wall as he was speaking to a visiting member of the clergy.

Strasburg Chief Tim Sutherly said Wednesday that police seized the firearm, a Taurus 9mm semi-automatic handgun, along with a slug recovered from the wall in the execution of a search warrant.

Sutherly said the gun is McElroy's personal possession, and police found no other guns in the house.

Sutherly estimated police have visited the residence six times over the last two years in connection with what he described as domestic and mental health issues. He said his department had informed the Forest Service after the incidents.

"We've been in touch with his supervisor," Sutherly said of McElroy. "They were made fully aware of everything."

Brown said McElroy was posted at the Lee Ranger District in Edinburg, one of 17 agency employees at the location. She said he has worked for the Forest Service "for seven or eight years, but only a few of those have been in the Jefferson-Washington National Forest."

She said his job as a ranger means he is a full-fledged law enforcement officer who would normally carry a gun as part of his job.

She said she had no information on when he last appeared on the job or how long the administrative leave might last.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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