After being shot in the chest by a deer hunter on Thanksgiving evening in Chatham County, WRD Conservation Cpl. Curtis Wright, 56, of Savannah is in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.
Chief of Law Enforcement Col. Terry West said the incident appears to be a case of the shooter, Lynn Jeffers, 47, of Port Wentworth, mistaking a person for game, and no charges have been filed pending the investigation being conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and DNR’s Critical Incident Response Team.
From preliminary reports, Col. West said Cpl. Wright was working a complaint of hunters shooting ducks off the roost the evening of Nov. 27 in a swamp head adjacent to some railroad tracks near Hwy 30 in Port Wentworth. At about 5:50 p.m. Cpl. Wright stepped out of a wooded area into the railroad right-of-way and was shot by a round from a 7mm magnum.
“The bullet entered just under the chest pocket of his uniform on the left side and went pretty much straight through and exited to the left of his spine,” Col. West said. “Luckily it didn’t hit his spine or any of his vital organs.”
According to Col. West, the shooter was hunting from an elevated platform on his ATV, and he was in the CSX Transportation right-of-way. The shooter was about 70 yards away from Cpl. Wright.
“It appears that he did not have permission to be hunting on the property,” West said. “CSX doesn’t give permission to any hunters.”
Col. West said Cpl. Wright immediately used his cell phone to call 911, and he also called his wife. The hunter came to Wright’s assistance and took him to the nearest road on his 4-wheeler to meet emergency personnel. Cpl. Wright was taken to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah where he underwent several surgeries.
“The surgery went real well. It being a 7mm mag., it left quite a hole in his back. There’ll be some recovery time, but he is expected to make a full recovery,” said Col. West. “Every morning they have been taking him into surgery to further clean the wound and remove any dead tissue.”
Col. West said the hunter was taken into custody for an extensive interview, and that he cooperated fully with investigators, but that he may face game-violation charges as well as a charge of misuse of a firearm while hunting once the investigation is completed. Misuse of a firearm while hunting, if serious harm is done, is a felony charge which carries a $5,000 fine and imprisonment of no less than a year and no more than 10 years.
“Based on what we know, we’ll sit down with the local DA. The decision to pursue charges is in a large part in their court,” Col. West said. “We’re certainly going to pursue prosecution, but that decision may not be in our hands.”
Cpl. Wright has worked for WRD for more than 26 years. Most of his career has been spent in Chatham County.