Officers nab 3 for illegal hunting

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Suspects facing jail, fines

By Martin Salazar

A man and two women were arrested Tuesday night on charges that they engaged in illegal hunting activities.

The three are accused of hunting by spotlight or artificial light just outside of Las Vegas on the Mineral Hill highway. A fourth individual who was in the vehicle with them fled on foot.

It’s unclear whether they hit the animal they were targeting.

“As of right now we have not found an animal. We’re still looking, but they didn’t drop it right there,” state Game and Fish Sgt. Ty Jackson said late Wednesday.

Arrested were Reyes Montoya, 42, who resides on the 900 block of Palo Verde, Debbie Romero, 32, of Sapello and Josephine Chavez, 51, of the 500 block of Union Street.

Montoya is charged with misdemeanor counts of hunting with the aid of artificial light, negligent use of a deadly weapon and shooting at a game animal from a vehicle.

Chavez and Romero are each charged with petty misdemeanor counts of hunting by spotlight or artificial light.

All three were booked into the San Miguel County Detention Center.

Jackson said that if convicted, they’re facing up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

“If they did kill an animal and if we’re able to find it they can — depending on the size of the animal — they could have to pay up to $10,000,” he added. “For violations such as spotlighting, they’re likely to lose their vehicle and to have all the firearms involved forfeited to the state.”

Jackson said that given the penalties, illegal hunting just isn’t worth it.

“We’re out there all the time,” he said. “We’re on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have officers out all the time, day or night, just depending on what’s going on.”

Jackson said Game and Fish also has officers out who aren’t in uniform and who aren’t driving marked vehicles.

“We’re doing road blocks,” he said. “We’re also doing decoy operations where we set up a fake elk or fake deer trying to catch folks stealing wildlife.”  

According to criminal complaints filed in San Miguel County Magistrate Court on Wednesday,  Jackson was involved in the arrests of Montoya, Romero and Chavez. He was following their vehicle as the incident was unfolding and called for another officer who made the arrests.

“The two female subjects admitted to using the headlights of the vehicle to illuminate the elk while Reyes shot at the elk,” the probable cause statements allege. “Josephine Chavez stated that Reyes Montoya did shoot his muzzle loader out of the vehicle at either an elk or a deer with antlers.”

Court documents state that Romero was the driver of the truck.

“Reyes Montoya shot at a game animal while it was illuminated by the headlights of his truck,” one citation states. “The driver shined the lights on the animal so Montoya could shoot it from the vehicle parked on Hwy 283.”

The Game and Fish officer also noted that Montoya had bloodshot, watery eyes and that his breath smelled of alcohol.

He “appeared to be highly intoxicated and unable to stand steady when he was in control of and shot his firearm from his vehicle...” another citation states.

“It tends to be a small group of folks that do this all the time and it usually has alcohol involved,” Jackson said. “It definitely isn’t worth it.”