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Home News-Telegram News Pair charged in game warden shooting released on bond; funds established to help with officer's medical expenses

Pair charged in game warden shooting released on bond; funds established to help with officer's medical expenses

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Two men have been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting of a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden at Cooper Lake earlier this week.

Booked into the Delta County jail in Cooper were Eli Stephens, 18, and Dalton Haddix, 21, both of Illinois. Stephens has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony. Haddix was charged with failure to report a felony, a Class A misdemeanor.

The two men, who came to Texas for the holidays, were taken into custody by game wardens Tuesday afternoon following an investigation by TPWD game wardens, Texas Rangers and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office.

The charges stem from the Sunday shooting of Game Warden Chris Fried, 31, of Cooper. Fried had been off duty and bow hunting on the Cooper Wildlife Management Area when the incident occurred around 6 p.m.

The warden remains in stable condition in the intensive care unit of Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where he underwent surgery early Monday for a gunshot wound from a high-powered rifle bullet that entered his upper right shoulder and lodged in his chest.

Delta County Sheriff Ricky Smith Thursday morning reported, “Chris is in very good condition and continuing to improve.”

According to investigators, Fried had been sitting in a blind on the 14,160-acre wildlife management area, hoping to take a deer, when he saw a light and heard what he believed to be an electronic game call. Thinking someone might be illegally hunting on the state property, the warden went into law enforcement mode and left his stand to investigate.

Moments later, as he walked toward the light, Fried was struck by a bullet. The warden yelled, “You shot me!” but no one responded or came to his aid. Fried then used his cell phone to call for help.

Investigators have determined that the shot came from private property adjacent to the WMA. Information from a Delta County resident familiar with the area led wardens to the two defendants.

Pursuant to a bond reduction hearing this morning, 8th Judicial District Judge Eddie Northcutt reduced the bond on Eli Stephens from $500,000 to $100,000 and reduced  Dalton Haddix’s bond from $300,000 to $5,000. Both bonded out of the Delta County jail this morning, according to Delta County’s chief deputy.

Fried is stationed in Delta County. He graduated from the TPWD Game Warden Academy in June 2009. 

A fund has also been established at two local banks for donations to help with Fried’s medical expenses. Donations may be made to the Chris Fried Benefit Account at both Enloe State Bank and First National Bank in Cooper.

 

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