Deer spotlighters say they did not have gun

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CAPRON—A felon from Elizabeth City, N.C., arrested for illegally possessing a rifle while spotting deer near Capron claims officials never found a gun during a search of his truck.

“I don’t know nothing about a .270 (caliber rifle that was allegedly found by investigators),” Travis Hollowell said Monday.

“We got a gun planted on us,” added his friend Jeremy Lassiter, also of Elizabeth City.

Sgt. J.T. Worrell with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said Tuesday a .270 rifle was found in Hollowell’s truck, but he didn’t want to say where in the truck, or who the gun was registered to.

“That’s getting into the criminal case,” Worrell said. “I will not give out specifics.”

Department investigators on Nov. 11 and 12 set up a whitetail deer decoy at Pope Station and Indiantown roads after getting reports about someone shooting after dark on Nov. 10.

At 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, Hollowell was accused of shining a light on the decoy and having the rifle with him. He also was cited for being a felon, who is not permitted to have a gun. The 27-year-old faces five years in prison for the firearm offense. At no time when spotlighting can a person have a gun.

Lassiter, 26, was also charged with spotlighting without permission from the property owner.

Hollowell and Lassiter have hearings on Feb. 15 in Southampton County General District Court in Courtland.

Hollowell said he and Lassiter saw three deer cross the road and turned on the spotlight to check them out.

“Before I could roll my window back up, there were two wildlife officers who wanted to know if we had written permission,” Hollowell said.

Both said they didn’t know it was against the law to use spotlights on private property without landowner permission because that’s not the case in North Carolina.

“We had no inkling (it was illegal),” Lassiter said.

Hollowell said a three-hour search of his truck followed, and the only thing found of his was black powder for a muzzleloader.

“They didn’t find a gun,” Hollowell said.

“They acted like we were some criminals and all we did was shine a light,” Lassiter added.

The owner of a landscaping business, Hollowell said his felony conviction stems from 10 years ago, when at age 17, he and others broke into several vehicles over a month’s time.

Hollowell said his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado remains impounded.