Two Illinois men arrested in connection with shooting of Texas game warden

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Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Two Illinois men were arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of a game warden in northeast Texas on Sunday.

Eli Stephens, 18, and Dalton Haddix, 21, were arrested on suspicion of the second-degree felony, while  Haddix also faces a charge of failure to report a felony, a Class A misdemeanor, according to a news release.

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

Chris Fried, 31, of Cooper, the off-duty warden, was bow hunting on the Cooper Wildlife Management Area in Delta County when he was struck by a bullet. 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, according to the release.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

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 a electronic game call, according to investigators. Thinking someone might be illegally hunting on the state property, the warden 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 cellphone to call for help, according to the release. 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 arrests of Stephens and Haddix.

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Will Leschper is founder of The Texas Outdoor Digest. He has been recognized for Excellence in Craft by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. He is Conservation Editor of Texas Fish & Game Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters, in addition to writing for plenty of of now-defunct publications.

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