Posted on Wed, Jan. 07, 2004
By Bill Cotterell
DEMOCRAT POLITICAL EDITOR
An executive of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
was forced to resign after being charged with shooting a deer in his yard,
the department said Tuesday.
A. Leon Lowry II, who was inspector general of the
department, faces a misdemeanor charge of hunting after dark. He could also
be charged with making false statements to investigators and could lose his
law-enforcement license, said FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell.
If Lowry's neighbor weren't a game warden, if he hadn't
asked a friend to help him cover his tracks, if he hadn't used a state car
to hustle the head and hide to Georgia or if he'd told his boss about being
investigated, Lowry might not have lost his job policing the affairs of
FDLE's other agents.
And if the eight-point buck had tromped into his Killearn
Lakes yard a half-hour sooner, yielding to such a tempting target wouldn't
have been a problem.
The veteran officer could not be reached for comment
Tuesday evening, but according to an internal FDLE report, "Lowry stated
that, as a hunter, he was tempted and he failed the test."
Lowry shot the deer in his yard at about 6:30 p.m. on Dec.
2, the report said. Lt. Thomas Haworth, a neighbor who was driving home
nearly two hours later, saw a "cleaned-up bloodstain" on the road
in front of Lowry's house.
The Fish and Wildlife official found a trail of blood in
the driveway the next day and spoke with Lowry, who "denied any knowledge of
a deer being shot the previous night," the report said. The next day,
Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Charles Chafin secretly wore a recorder and talked
Lowry, who said a friend had given him some deer meat from a hunting trip
Fish and Wildlife Capt. Scott Runkle went to Star's Meats
on Tharpe Street, where many hunters have their kill dressed. An employee
there said Lowry had brought a freshly killed deer to be butchered at 6:35
p.m. on Dec. 3.
"Lowry brought the deer in for processing less than an
hour after denying any knowledge of the deer to FWC Lt. Haworth," FDLE
Supervisor Scott Grant wrote in his report.
On Dec. 10, Chafin and Runkle went to the FDLE, where
Lowry headed the office that investigates complaints against other officers
and mismanagement within the agency. The report said he again denied
knowledge of the shooting but said that a friend "had given him a second
deer that he had forgotten to tell Sgt. Chafin about."
"The investigators explained their investigation,
including the previous taped statements and the ability to match blood
samples from Lowry's driveway with the deer he took to Star's Meats," the
report said. At that point, he "admitted the violation."
Lowry told investigators he had called his friend during
the investigation and said, "If anybody asks, just tell them you gave me
some more meat." The report said Lowry acknowledged it was illegal to
shoot the animal after sunset and that he should have informed FDLE chief
Bonnie Rogers that the Fish and Wildlife Commission was investigating him.
He also told investigators he used a state police car to "drive up into Georgia on Dec. 5 in order to dump the deer head and cape in
a location where FWC would not find them," the report said.
Tunnell, the FDLE commissioner, said he was going to fire
Lowry, but Lowry asked if he could resign on Dec. 19. His resignation memo
cited "personal reasons" and said, "It has been my pleasure
to serve the law enforcement community for the last 24-plus years."
The FDLE did not publicly announce the resignation.
Tunnell said Lowry was a highly valued employee and had a clean record.
"He essentially realized he had made a mistake in trying
to cover it all up, and my purpose was not to beat up on him," Tunnell said.
"Leon has invested a lot of himself in the agency, and he apologized
for any embarrassment he brought to us."
Contact political editor Bill Cotterell at (850) 222-6729
© 2004 Tallahassee Democrat and wire service sources. All