Game warden charged in shooting

A Greene County grand jury indicted game warden Robert Orrin Ham, III on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of 16-year-old Allen Cochran.

On January 24, Cochran was suspected of kidnapping his 15-year-old girlfriend. Ham was assisting police in a hunt for the teen when he pulled over Cochran’s vehicle, with his girlfriend inside, on Route 33 near Stanardsville. Ham allegedly fired on Cochran after Cochran rammed him with his car. Cochran died at the scene.

Cochran’s family members have said in published reports that the couple intended to run away together.

The Virginia State Police investigated the shooting incident and turned evidence over to Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald L. Morris last month. At a hearing June 11, Morris persuaded a grand jury to indict Ham for voluntary manslaughter. The jury forwent an option of charging Ham with second-degree murder. Morris says he may have an outside prosecutor handle the case.

Ham, 25, graduated from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ (VDGIF) Basic Training Academy last spring, where he received the “Top Shot Award,” according to a May 2006 VDGIF press release: “The Top Shot Award is given to the game warden recruit with the highest overall qualification scores on all firearms courses. …Recruits were required to demonstrate proficiency with their issued pistol, rifle, and shotgun.”

Officials with VDGIF could not be reached for comment. Ham faces up to 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in Greene County Circuit Court on June 19.

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