No Charges Filed in Wolf Case www.Abqjournal.com
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
No Charges Filed in Wolf Case
By Rene Romo
Copyright Â© 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Southern Bureau
No charges will be filed in the confrontation in which a state biologist alleged a federal Wildlife Services employee threatened her with a rifle after the shooting of a wolf in Catron County.
The decision on the July 5 incident was disclosed late Tuesday by Clint Wellborn, district attorney for the 7th Judicial District.
In a letter to Catron County Sheriff Shawn Menges, Wellborn said he concluded that there was insufficient evidence of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The former state Game and Fish Department biologist, 26-year-old Angela Dassow, disputed Wellborn’s conclusions but said she was not surprised by the results.
“This is pretty much exactly how I expected things to turn out,” Dassow said in a telephone interview from her home in Wisconsin.
Dassow, who quit her summer job with the endangered Mexican gray wolf program in New Mexico shortly after the July 5 incident, noted that Catron County officials have been critical of the wolf reintroduction program. She said she expected the sheriff’s department investigation would be “biased.”
Ranch hand Mike Miller, who works on the Adobe Ranch and was present with three Wildlife Services employees during the confrontation, has denied that Dassow was ever threatened. He said the woman was disoriented at the time.
“I’m glad they ain’t going to charge any of us,” Miller said Tuesday. “Now they need to charge her for making false statements.”
Fear must be present to charge someone with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the district attorney said.
Wellborn noted that, when asked how she felt about having a rifle pointed at her, Dassow told a deputy: “I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy inside, but, I mean, I didn’t think he would actually shoot me.”
A supervisor sent Dassow to the Adobe Ranch on July 5 to tell Wildlife Services workers that an order to kill an endangered Mexican gray wolf had been temporarily halted.
The wolf already had been shot and killed by the time Dassow arrived, and she claimed that one of the federal employees, holding a rifle with one hand, leveled the firearm at her and said she had “no business” being there.
The district attorney said his decision to file no charges was based on his review of reports by the sheriff’s department and State Police.
Wellborn said he concluded from Dassow’s statements to police that she never feared for her safety or felt the Wildlife Services employee would harm her.
Dassow, in the telephone interview Tuesday, said she also told investigators she felt “that I had a 50-50 chance of being shot.”
“To me, that means I felt threatened,” Dassow said. “But apparently they have a different interpretation.”
Wellborn said he could not determine from statements Dassow gave investigators that the rifle was pointed directly at her.
Wellborn said Dassow told a State Police agent that the barrel of the rifle was pointed skyward and wielded with a “passive” motion.
Dassow said she had acted out how the weapon had been pointed at her in an interview with State Police. “It was pointed directly at me,” she said Tuesday.
Dassow believes stress from the confrontation caused her later on July 5 to faint at her residence after breaking a window to get in because her key did not work.
Dassow first told law enforcement about the confrontation hours after it occurred when a deputy and a colleague found her on the floor of her rented house, “eyes fixed, staring,” Wellborn said.
“I just don’t understand,” Dassow said Tuesday. “I just don’t, once every couple of months, decide to lay catatonic on the floor because I decide to punch a hole in a window. They can’t think this is how people act if they weren’t threatened.”
Eight conservation groups last week asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct an “unbiased” investigation of the case.