By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A pair of hunters from North Dakota and Pennsylvania have filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Game and Fish Department alleging they were wrongfully arrested on hunting charges in 2019 and are asking for damages of $2 million each
Blendi Cumani of North Dakota and Roland Shehu of Pennsylvania allege that while hunting in Park County in October 2019, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Warden Chris Queen began an investigation into the killing of three elk that were allegedly abandoned and left to waste in the area.
According to the lawsuit filed in state district court in Park County, the warden detained Cumani and Shehu, ordering them to remain in the county during his investigation and preventing them from returning to their homes.
The men argued in the lawsuit that the warden’s investigation failed to show they shot the elk and evidence actually proved they did not, but Queen pursued criminal charges against the two. Cumani and Shehu faced charges that were punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Wyoming state law forbids the “failure of any person to properly dress and care for any big game animal killed by that person, and if the carcass is reasonably accessible, within 48 hours to take or transport the carcass to the camp of that person, and there properly care for the carcass.”
“During the course of the criminal proceedings … Queen and others with whom he acted … misrepresented to and/or concealed from prosecutors the true and complete facts that had been discovered and developed during the investigation into the deaths of the elk,” the lawsuit said.
Cumani and Shehu requested jury trials, which took place in September 2020. Both men were found not guilty of killing the elk.
The men argued that Queen did not have probable cause to detain or arrest them, which they say violated their constitutional rights. They also accused the department of malicious prosecution.
The men are asking for damages of $2 million each for past and future emotional pain and suffering and for past and future loss of enjoyment of life.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing the statute of limitations on the allegations has expired.
It was not clear if the person who shot the elk was identified or charged.