Reserve officer still on force

GREENFIELD — A Hancock County Sheriff’s reserve deputy will remain on the volunteer force after being charged with a misdemeanor accusing him of over-hunting.

The volunteer officer — Zachary Reynolds, 26, 7041 N. County Road 500E, Greenfield – admitted to the offense and entered a diversion program as part of an agreement with prosecutors, officials said.

Reynolds was among a group of three hunters caught shooting 17 geese on one afternoon in early January in McCordsville, according to court documents. State law prohibits a hunter from shooting more than three Canada geese in one day. For Reynolds and his two friends, the limit that day would have been nine, officials said.

Reynolds and Joshua Plank, 39, 5457 W. County Road 900 N, McCordsville, were charged with misdemeanors after the incident. The third man in their party said he did not shoot any of the birds and was not charged, records show.

Plank pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his case is pending. Reynolds agreed to pay a $334 fine and refrain from hunting waterfowl for the remainder of 2018 as part of his agreement with prosecutors.

If he is charged with no further offenses for the rest of the year, the charge filed against him will be dropped, officials said.

Reynolds will remain on as one of the sheriff’s department’s 26 reserve deputies. He was placed on administrative leave, with his badge and gun revoked, following the incident, Sheriff Mike Shepherd said.

Reynolds alerted sheriff’s department’s command staff to his brush with the law soon after the incident occurred on Jan. 3, Shepherd said.

Reynolds remained on leave until the agreement with prosecutors was filed late last week, Shepherd said.

He will have to work an eight-hour shift in the local jail under supervision before he’s allowed back on the road, Shepherd said.

Reserve deputies – who complete 240 hours of training and agree to work 20 hours a month for free for the department – are held to the same higher standard as any police officer. Because the charge Reynolds faced was just a misdemeanor, Shepherd said he didn’t think it was necessary to remove him from the force.

“He knows he messed up,” Shepherd said. “He did something wrong and tried to get away with it. But there was no need to resign.”

Had Reynolds faced a felony charge, the department would have stripped him of his badge, Shepherd said. No deputy – full-time or reserve – may have a felony on their record, he said.

Reynolds faced a single Class C misdemeanor of intentionally taking a migratory bird above the seasonal limit. He admitted to the allegation this week as part of the agreement with prosecutors; the agreement did not require him to plead guilty, however, records show.

An Indiana conservation officer was tipped off to a group hunting geese and ducks near the corner of county roads 500W and 900N in McCordsville. A caller said he saw the group of men shoot more than six geese, drive away and later return to the same location to hunt more.

The officer who met the men in the field that day found they had nine geese and two mallard ducks.

When the officer asked the men whether they had shot any other geese, Reyonlds and Plank admitted they had — five or six — earlier in the day, court documents state.

Between the two of them, they shot 10 more geese than the legal limit, court documents state.

Plank also faces a single Class C misdemeanor of intentionally taking a migratory bird above the seasonal limit. His case is pending in Hancock County Superior Court 2.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.