WORTHINGTON ― A Round Lake man was arrested last weekend after being accused of unlawful gun possession while hunting.
While patrolling during the deer season gun opener Nov. 7, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources observed a vehicle in the northbound lane of Minnesota 264 that was stopped in the lane of traffic. The officer inquired as to why the driver was stopped, and the driver explained that his friend had gotten out to stalk a deer that he had seen in a grove of trees on the east side of the highway.
The land in question belongs to that particular conservation officer, it was noted in the criminal complaint.
The conservation officer approached the hunter in his squad car, identified himself and asked the hunter what he was doing. The hunter, identified as Obediah Stafford, 58, of Round Lake, reportedly was insistent that he had permission to be on the land, that he wasn't stalking a deer and that he had never been in trouble with the law before. The conservation officer said he knew Stafford was stalking a deer, and that he definitely didn't have permission to be on the land because the land belonged to the officer.
The officer let Stafford go with a warning for trespassing, but called another DNR officer in the enforcement division to ask about Stafford. That officer was a former Worthington police officer and knew that Stafford was a convicted felon, and therefore ineligible to own or operate a firearm of any kind.
A review of Stafford's history revealed that he had been convicted of second-degree murder in Forsyth County, North Carolina in 1983. When asked about this, Stafford allegedly surrendered a 12-gauge shotgun to law enforcement. He said his civil rights had been restored and he was, in fact, eligible to own a firearm, but that the paperwork was in Florida.
Stafford was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm after conviction for a crime of violence, a felony that carries a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.
Stafford was released from Nobles County Jail Nov. 9 on conditional bail at no cost.