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Fallen Officers

The men and women who serve as Michigan DNR conservation officers are essential frontline employees who protect our state’s natural resources and the health and safety of the public. It is a physically and mentally demanding career that officers and their families commit their lives to.

These 16 officers are recognized by the DNR as Michigan conservation officers who died or were killed as a result of an incident that occurred during the line of duty. They are recognized on the Fallen Conservation Officers Memorial located at the DNR Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon. 

* Content marked with an asterisk is the best estimated information.

Arthur Green III

Arthur Adolph Green III, 1956-2015

Arthur A. Green III was hired as a Michigan conservation officer May 5, 1996. Green was promoted to sergeant Jan. 30, 2005, and to first lieutenant May 24, 2015. F/Lt. Green spent his entire career serving the citizens of southeast Michigan. 

Aug. 9, 2015, Green was piloting an airplane to a mandatory in-service training in northwest Michigan. The plane crashed while on approach to the Harbor Springs Airport in Emmet County. The severity of the crash resulted in Green’s death. 

Prior to becoming a conservation officer, Green served in the Detroit Police Department, the United States Air Force and the Michigan Air National Guard. Green is survived by his wife and two sons.

Green is recognized on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. and at the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing.

Scott Averill

Vernon Scott Averill, 1946-1986

Thursday, Oct. 23, 1980, Conservation Officer Averill approached two men (father and son) spearing trout on the Acme Creek in Grand Traverse County. Averill wrote the two a citation for illegally spearing fish. On request of the men, Averill turned his back to change the appearance date on the citations to a more convenient time for them. Without warning, the older man drew his .22-caliber hunting revolver and began pistol whipping Averill in the head while his son held the officer down.

The two men took Averill’s service revolver, glasses and ticket book and fled the scene. With severe head injuries and damage to his brain, Averill was able to crawl to his vehicle and drive to M-72, where he called for help. Averill was able to relay information on the two suspects to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office. The two men were later arrested.

The night of this incident, Averill underwent surgery to relieve pressure on two skull depressions. He later developed brain tumors in the injured area and passed away Feb. 1, 1986, at the age of 39.

Averill was laid to rest Feb. 5, 1986, at the Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lowell, Michigan. He was survived by his wife and two children.

He is recognized at the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing and on a paving stone at the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota.

Gerald Welling

Gerald Francis Welling, 1918-1972

Conservation Officer Gerald Welling, 54, was killed at approximately 2 a.m. Sept. 10, 1972, the night before his 24th wedding anniversary, while on patrol for illegal bear hunting activity at a dump site near the community of Hermansville.

Welling, accompanied by Conservation Officer William Maycunich, observed a pickup truck enter the dump area and shine a light in an apparent attempt to locate bear. The officers, who were on foot at the time, attempted to apprehend the two occupants of the pickup.

Maycunich approached the stopped vehicle from the driver's side, and Welling was approaching the vehicle from the front, in full uniform, waving a flashlight and illuminated by the vehicle’s headlights. As Maycunich shined his flashlight into the pickup, it suddenly sped forward, striking Welling. The pickup had a hydraulic snowplow assembly mounted on its front, and Welling became entangled in this assembly and was dragged underneath the vehicle for approximately 100 feet.

Maycunich fired at the departing vehicle and apprehended the driver, Kenneth Viau, 24, of Bark River, a short distance down the road. A passenger in the vehicle, Gary E. Johnson, 30, of Hermansville, fled the scene on foot. Welling was pronounced dead on arrival at the nearest hospital. Both Viau and Johnson were initially charged with first-degree murder in this tragic event. Charges against Johnson were ultimately dismissed.

A jury trial found Viau guilty of a reduced charge of negligent homicide and sentenced him to one year in Marquette Prison.

An Army sergeant in World War II, Welling was survived by his wife and five children.

He was originally laid to rest at the Meyer Township cemetery, near Hermansville in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. When his wife moved back to her hometown, Welling was relocated to the Coe Township cemetery in St. Louis, Michigan.

Welling is honored at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, and on a plaque outside the DNR Customer Service Center located in Marquette. In 1975, a newspaper article documented that 58 acres of Menominee County woodland was formally dedicated as the Gerald Welling Access Site.

Edward Starback

Edward Carl Starback, 1900-1957

Aug. 8, 1957, Conservation Officer Starback was en route from Boyne City to Beaver Island by plane to pick up a Department of Conservation patrol boat, which he had left at Beaver Island a few days prior due to rough weather conditions. Piloting the plane was a local insurance man by the name of Donald P. Watkins, 63. They were also accompanied by Starback’s two sons, Major Richard Starback, 35, and Carlton Starback, 28.

At approximately 1:20 p.m., the four men departed for Beaver Island from the Boyne City Airport. At approximately 1:40 p.m., a pilot returning from Beaver Island witnessed Watkins’ Stinson Voyageur airplane in a tight spiral at an altitude of more than 2,000 feet. All four men perished in the plane crash.

Starback was laid to rest at age 56 in the Breedsville Cemetery in Breedsville, Michigan. He was survived by his wife, Bonnie.

Starback is currently recognized on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, and as a fallen officer on a plaque at the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota. He is also included on a plaque outside of the DNR Customer Service Center located in Marquette.

Thomas Mellon

Thomas J. Mellon, 1901-1947

Oct. 23, 1947, Conservation Officer Mellon was involved in fighting fires in Schoolcraft County. While ferrying fire equipment across the Manistique River, his heavily loaded boat hit a snag and capsized. Mellon was pinned under a logjam, where he drowned.

Mellon was laid to rest at the age of 46. He was survived by his wife and son.

He is recognized as a fallen officer on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota, and on a plaque outside the DNR Customer Service Center located in Marquette.

Carlyle Smith

Carlyle B. Smith, 1895-1943

Conservation Officer Carlyle B. Smith set out to patrol the Maple River in Gratiot County, checking for setlines, April 17, 1943. He began his patrol of the Maple River from Bridgeville (State Road) and proceeded downriver toward Maple Rapids with his small patrol boat and motor. Smith was last seen alive while launching his patrol boat in Bridgeville.

It is believed that Smith’s patrol boat, known for its instability, capsized into the cold water of the Maple River. Smith was able to retrieve his boat, motor and some equipment and drag them to shore. At this point, Smith began an approximately 3-mile walk back to Bridgeville, where his vehicle was parked.

When Smith did not return home from his patrol, a massive search was initiated. State conservation officers, Michigan State Police officers, Gratiot and Clinton County sheriff departments’ staff and local citizens all assisted in the search. Smith’s body was found May 11, 1943, south of the Maple River between where he began his patrol and where his boat, motor and patrol equipment were found.

According to Michigan State Police reports, two MSP doctors conducted the autopsy and could not rule out heart disease. The Coroner’s Jury concluded that Smith died due to “over exertion and exposure.”  

Smith was laid to rest at age 48 at the Gunnison Cemetery in Clinton County, Michigan. Smith was survived by his wife Helen and daughter Marilyn.

A quote from a service record stated that Smith, “has shown outstanding ability and has given exceptional service as an officer.”

He is recognized on a paving stone at the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota.

Maurice Luck

Maurice C. Luck, 1908-1938

Conservation Officer Maurice Luck was accidentally shot in the abdomen in Sandusky, Michigan, March 15, 1938. His service revolver fell out of his shoulder holster and discharged when he leaned over while working on his patrol car at a service station. Luck died at 4:45 a.m. March 16, 1938, at a local hospital.

Luck was laid to rest March 19, 1938, in St. Johns, Michigan, at age 29. He was survived by his mother and father, Earl and Mattie Luck, his sister Lois Luck and his fiancé, Vera Frederick.

Before joining the department, Luck served with the Ingham County Izaak Walton League as a special deputy. Taking the officer's examination in June 1936, he was named a conservation officer the following November. He was regarded as one of the most promising of the younger officers.

Andrew Schmeltz

Andrew Schmeltz, 1890-1936

Andrew Schmeltz died Oct. 20, 1936, in Negaunee Township, Marquette County, a few miles north of Negaunee on the Carp River. 

Schmeltz was killed on a wooded trail that leads along a ridge between Pricket Lake and the Carp River. Parts of his body were found by Isaac Seppala and William Hiekilla, members of the searching party, at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 21. His revolver was found in an open spot 10 feet west of the trail. Searchers found his holster 8 feet further. The body had been dragged about 157 feet to the edge of a swamp, where it was then blown to bits by charges of dynamite.

Oct. 23, Michigan State Police took Raymond Kivela, age 27, into custody. Kivela, in a confession to the county prosecutor, stated he killed Schmeltz about 11 a.m. Oct. 20. Two shots near the heart from a .22-caliber rifle killed the officer at the location where his gun was found. Kivela then dragged the body to a point mentioned above and returned home in the afternoon and purchased 50 pounds of dynamite, for the purpose of disposing the body. At night he returned to the swamp and first shot off a decoy blast about a quarter mile north of the body, waited for one hour, then placed 70 sticks of dynamite on it and set them off, hoping to drive the remains into the mud of the swamp. He went home and returned about one hour later and set off all but two of the remaining sticks of dynamite to destroy any evidence of the former blast.

Schmeltz had been investigating a report of illegal trapping and met Kivela along the trail carrying a .22 rifle. Kivela admitted he had no permit to carry the gun. Schmeltz said he would have to take his gun, and Kivela then struck the officer, knocking him to his knees. Kivela seized the .22 rifle and fired two shots into Schmeltz’s chest.

Kivela had first stated in his confession that he mistook Schmeltz for a partridge. He was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder Dec. 14, 1936.

Schmeltz was survived by his wife, Lyda.

He is recognized as a fallen officer on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota, and on a plaque outside the DNR Customer Service Center located in Marquette.

Elgin McDonough

Elgin McDonough, 1895-1932

Special Investigator Elgin McDonough and Special Investigator Karl Zimmerman were killed in a vehicle crash on U.S. 16, one-half mile east of Webberville, Dec. 21, 1932.

Their automobile collided with the back of an unlit, horse-drawn wagon while they were en route from Lansing to Macomb County as part of an ongoing investigation. Both investigators suffered fatal injuries. The farmer driving the wagon was injured.

Born July 24, 1895, Investigator McDonough was a U.S. Army veteran of World War I. He had served with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for six years and had previously served with the North-West Mounted Police in Canada. He was survived by his wife, Dorothy.

McDonough is recognized as a fallen officer on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Karl Zimmerman

Karl Zimmermann, 1897-1932

Special Investigator Karl Zimmermann and Special Investigator Elgin McDonough were killed in a vehicle crash on U.S. 16, one-half mile east of Webberville, Dec. 21, 1932.

Their automobile collided with the back of an unlit, horse-drawn wagon while they were en route from Lansing to Macomb County as part of an ongoing investigation. Both investigators suffered fatal injuries. The farmer driving the wagon was injured.

Born Jan. 28, 1897, Investigator Zimmermann was a U.S. Army veteran of World War I and had only served with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for three days. He was survived by his wife, Katherine Kelly Zimmermann.

Zimmermann is recognized as a fallen officer on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Theron Craw

Theron Adherbal Craw, 1900-1928

Theron A. Craw was born April 9, 1900,* at the family farm near Long Lake in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. He was the son of Michigan Conservation Officer and District Law Supervisor Mark A. Craw and his wife Clara. After serving as an infantryman in World War I, Theron Craw was hired as a Michigan Conservation Officer Jan. 2, 1928.

Oct. 31, 1928, Conservation Officer Craw was working a detail with Conservation Officer Howard Yunker at Acme Creek in Grand Traverse County. The two officers were assigned to work trappers and chase off merganser ducks from fish that had been recently stocked in the creek. During the course of their duties, Craw was accidently shot by Yunker. Craw sustained a 12-gauge gunshot wound to his back, with the pellets reaching into his left lung and liver as well as other organs. He was taken to Munson Hospital for treatment, and two days later began to develop peritonitis. Craw died Nov. 5, 1928.

During his stay at the hospital, Craw pleaded with officials not to blame Yunker for the incident. Craw stated Officer Yunker was not at fault for the accident, and that he had jumped up in front of Yunker as he was shooting.

Craw was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City with full military honors by the Bowen-Holiday American Legion Post. His body was escorted by an honor guard comprised of four Michigan conservation officers. Conservation Department Director George Hogarth made it clear that Officer Craw, “was shot in the line of duty, and so compensation is doubtless forthcoming.” At the time though, the incident was classified as a hunting accident in order to protect the wishes of Craw.

Craw’s father, Mark A. Craw, served as a Michigan conservation officer from 1900 until his retirement in 1947.

He is recognized as a fallen officer on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. and on the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing.

Arvid Erickson

Arvid Erickson, 1896-1926

Conservation officers Arvid Erickson and Emil Skoglund were working together Sept. 29, 1926, in the Sands Plains area of Marquette County when they encountered an unlicensed small game hunter.

During the course of the arrest, the man pulled a hidden .22-caliber revolver and killed Skoglund with a shot to the head. When Erickson came running up, he was also killed. When the officers failed to return home and their abandoned car was found, a massive investigation and search were launched. The evidence eventually led to the killer, who confessed to the crime. The officers’ bodies were recovered, having been weighted and dumped into Lake Superior from a pier in Marquette. The killer was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Erickson was laid to rest at the age of 30, leaving behind a wife, Alina, and two children.

Erickson is recognized as a fallen officer by the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota, and on a plaque outside the DNR Customer Service Center located in Marquette.

Emil Waldemar Skoglund, 1890-1926

Conservation officers Arvid Erickson and Emil Skoglund were working together Sept. 29, 1926, in the Sands Plains area of Marquette County when they encountered an unlicensed small game hunter.

During the course of the arrest, the man pulled a hidden .22-caliber revolver and killed Skoglund with a shot to the head. When Erickson came running up, he was also killed. When the officers failed to return home and their abandoned car was found, a massive investigation and search were launched. The evidence eventually led to the killer, who confessed to the crime. The officers’ bodies were recovered, having been weighted and dumped into Lake Superior from a pier in Marquette. The killer was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Skoglund was laid to rest at the age of 36.

Skoglund is recognized as a fallen officer by the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota, and on a plaque outside the DNR Customer Service Center in Marquette.

Patrick Waters

Patrick Thomas Waters, 1872-1923

Born Jan. 3, 1872, in Canada, Deputy Game Warden Patrick T. Waters died Tuesday, May 29, 1923, at age 51.

Waters was with another deputy game warden at the Riverview Hotel in Port Huron, waiting for a fisherman who had a warrant. Waters died from injuries sustained when he opened the wrong door and fell down a basement stairway at approximately 2 a.m.

He was laid to rest in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Port Huron and survived by his wife, Margaret, and children, Thomas and Margaret. Waters was a former hotel proprietor.

Waters is recognized as a fallen officer by the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C.

Frank Wilson

Frank S. Wilson, 1854-1908

During September 1907*, Frank S. Wilson received notice from the State of Michigan that he had been appointed a state game and fire warden. Wilson’s district was comprised of 10 counties in northern Michigan, and he resided with his family in Elk Rapids.

Wilson was last seen alive during the night of Wednesday, April 1, 1908, in Traverse City. Wilson’s body was found Friday, April 3, 1908, in the woods of Leelanau, just over the line near Traverse City. Wilson was found with two bullet wounds to his head.

Wilson was laid to rest at the age of 55 in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Elk Rapids Township, Antrim County. He was survived by his wife and seven children.

Deputy Warden Frank S. Wilson is  recognized on the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing and on a paving stone at the North American Game Warden Museum in North Dakota.

 
Julius Salomonson

Julius Andreas Salomonson, 1877-1908

Nov. 15, 1908, Deputy Game, Fish & Forestry Warden Julius Salomonson, his brother Martin Salomonson and Deputy Sheriff J. C. Hazeltine drowned in White Lake, located in Muskegon County, while trying to apprehend violators netting fish illegally.

During the afternoon of Nov. 14, 1908, Salomonson and his brother found illegal nets near the mouth of a channel leading to Lake Michigan. Expecting trouble, they secured Hazeltine's assistance. Around midnight on Nov. 15, the trio left their horses and lantern along the edge of the lake and proceeded out in a small, flat-bottom boat to apprehend the violators.

After no word was heard from them the following day, a search party was formed. Their bodies were located 600 feet from shore in about 7 feet of water. The county coroner’s inquisition stated they “...came to their death from drowning in White Lake on the 15th day of November 1908 while endeavoring to secure nets placed in said lake contrary to law and apprehend party or parties placing said nets, and in trying to perform said duty were drowned in an unknown and mysterious manner.”

Sources questioned whether the men had met some type of resistance and were overpowered, as it was known certain violators had made threats that there would be serious consequences if the officers did not cease their efforts to break up the illegal netting activity and leave them alone. The deaths were declared an accidental drowning after an investigation by deputy state game wardens Tom J. G. Bolt of Moorland and C. K. Hoyt of Grand Haven and Deputy Sheriff Dan James could find no evidence of any violence toward the officers.

Salomonson was survived by his wife, Nina, and daughter, Jennette. He is recognized on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C., the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial in Lansing, and the Muskegon County Fallen Officers Memorial.