Waterfowl Assault: Public-Land Hunters Threatened, Attacked

Waterfowl Assault: Public-Land Hunters Threatened, Attacked
Clark Purvis is an eastern N.C. waterfowl guide who allegedly was attacked because of a public-lands use dispute. (Photo by Craig Holt)

The suspect allegedly assaulted waterfowl hunters in December incidents in North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

A North Carolina man faces two felonies and numerous misdemeanors stemming from two December 2017 incidents inside the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Hyde County Sheriff's Office said Jarrod Thomas Umphlett, of Manns Harbor, N.C., has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and other lesser offenses, after the incidents, including on Dec. 16, at Swan Lake, where he allegedly rammed his boat into another that carried a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission member and a nephew of the governor.

Umphlett allegedly rammed the 15-foot aluminum john boat with his 17-foot Privateer center-console boat, reportedly over a disputed waterfowl hunting lake inside the refuge.

Clark Purvis is an eastern N.C. waterfowl guide who allegedly was attacked because of a public-lands use dispute. (Photo by Craig Holt)

Clark Purvis is an eastern N.C. waterfowl guide who allegedly was attacked because of a public-lands use dispute

"We were having a nice boat ride on a beautiful day, scouting before the start of the second N.C. split waterfowl season (December 16)," said John Clark Purvis Sr., 44, of Rocky Mount, a nephew of N.C. governor Roy Cooper. Also in the john boat was Richard Edwards, of Wilmington, an appointed member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Umphlett, 28, allegedly cursed Edwards and Purvis with racial epithets and threats of violence, jumped in their john boat, and began to hit Purvis with his fists after unsuccessfully trying to rip a small outboard motor off the transom.

Purvis sustained bruises and the john boat's gunwale was bent where Umphlett's boat allegedly made contact.

Ten days later, Umphlett, 28, allegedly verbally assaulted and physically threatened a father and son inside a duck blind, also at Swan Lake, according to authorities.

In the second incident, the father and son went to the blind on Dec. 26, 2017, hours before daylight to put out decoys and prepare for a hunt. But a boat appeared in the darkness and the driver, Umphlett, allegedly shined a spotlight in their faces.

"The guy pulled through our decoys, put the spotlight on us and started cussin' that he was gonna call Robert Wayne [the area WRC enforcement sergeant]," said Plymouth's Larry Gammon, 48, who was accompanied by his 17-year-old son.

"He said, 'You're Larry Gammon,' and I asked him how he knew my name and he said he knew I lived in Plymouth and had a Dodge Dakota. I told him we were at public land and could hunt from the blind.

"Then he cussed us again, called us 'n.....s', then took off his hat and coat and said he was going to come in the blind and 'whip our a...s' and send us back to Plymouth."

Gammon said Umphlett probably thought better because the two hunters had shotguns.

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is public land. Hunters may hunt ducks, geese or swans in season at designated areas from the water in their own boats or from refuge land. Private blinds aren't permitted to be built or used at the refuge, a rule clearly printed in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service hunting regulations handbook.

Gammon said he'd hunted ducks at Swan Lake "for 30 years" and once hunted from a previous blind at the same site. He said it was rebuilt two years ago, apparently by Umphlett for his personal use.

"He said he was gonna get me and I'd lose everything I effin' had," Gammon said. "So I have a new door coming [for his house] and a trail camera set up in my yard. I shouldn't have to do that."

Purvis said he had faith in the judicial system when Umphlett's case goes before a judge and jury.

"I have full confidence in the N.C. judicial system," he said. "It was a misfortunate and traumatic event and fortunately nobody got shot."

Umphlett's initial hearing on both incidents scheduled for Jan. 31, was postponed at Swan Quarter District Court until April 3, 2018.

Records at the Swan Quarter District Court show 14 charges connected to the two incidents.

Umphlett could not be reached for comment; his listed telephone number no longer is in service.

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