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Posted March 25, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

New Market man accused of breaking game warden's finger

By Joe Beck

A New Market man will face a charge of assault and battery on a law enforcement officer after a preliminary hearing Friday in which the judge threw out another felony charge.

The assault and battery charge against Andrew Wayne Stroop, 25, of 9583 Shenandoah Drive, New Market, stems from a protracted scuffle that allegedly broke out between him and Owen Heine, a game warden with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Brent Lutz.

The confrontation near the intersection of Moreland Gap Road and Dogwood Trail at about 7 p.m. on Dec. 18 left Heine with a broken finger on his right hand for which he is still being treated.

Shenandoah County General District Court Judge Amy Tisinger called the struggle, described in more than an hour of testimony by Heine and Lutz, an "unbelievably chaotic situation."

Heine testified that it was a wrestling match. "We were all there together bumping around," he said, adding that he broke his finger while grabbing Stroop's shirt as the defendant tried to flee from him.

Heine testified that he found Stroop moments earlier near a camper after responding to a report from a family member that the defendant had been missing from a hunting party for several hours.

Heine said he ran a records check on a rifle Stroop was carrying to determine whether it was stolen. In doing so, Heine said he found an arrest warrant had been issued for Stroop in Rockingham County.

Heine said the fight broke out when he asked Stroop to place his hands on his head. Stroop placed one hand on top of his head, and then tried to flee, Heine said, adding that he then grabbed Stroop's T-shirt and the defendant spun violently to his left.

Heine testified that at that point he felt a numbness in his fingers on his right hand and saw one of them was bent back.

"To me, it's visibly broken," Heine said.

He and Lutz continued struggling to bring Stroop under control until Lutz removed his Taser and threatened to fire it, according to Heine.

"At that point, he stopped resisting enough to get the cuffs on him," Heine said of Stroop.

Heine estimated the fight lasted about two minutes.

After it ended, he said, the law enforcement officers found a glass smoking device nearby and a plastic bag with suspicious contents. Heine said Stroop told them under questioning the bag contained methamphetamine.

Stroop's attorney, C. Todd Gilbert of Woodstock, argued that the evidence for a charge of possession of a controlled substance was illegally obtained. Heine and Lutz failed to give a Miranda warning to Stroop before he told them about the location of the glass pipe and the contents of the plastic bag, Gilbert said.

Tisinger agreed.

"I do believe that is the fruit of the poisonous tree," she said, referring to evidence obtained by violating Stroop's Miranda rights.

But Tisinger rejected an argument from Gilbert that his client's actions did not meet the definition of assault and battery, which includes the wording, "rude and offensive" touching. Gilbert contended that a charge of resisting arrest more closely fit Stroop's attempt to flee from Heine.

"I think the initial contact between him and the officer is in and of itself a rude and offensive touching, and I'm ordering it to the grand jury," Tisinger said.

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

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