A Manns Harbor, N.C., man will be in court in Swan Quarter, N.C., on Wednesday morning, facing two felony charges and almost a dozen misdemeanors stemming to two December incidents in which duck hunters were allegedly harassed and in one instance, physically assaulted.
Jarrod Umphlett, who works at OBX Marina in Wanchese, N.C., faces two felony charges of assault and 11 more misdemeanors.
Most of the charges stem from an incident the afternoon of Dec. 16, when Umphlett is alleged to have approached a boat in Swan Creek Lake, a public waterway off the Alligator River in Hyde County that is surrounded by the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
According to an incident report by the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department, the boat’s occupants were Clark Purvis of Hobgood, N.C., who runs Roanoke River Waterfowl, a hunting-guide service, and Richard Edwards of WIlmington, N.C., a member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, who were scouting for future duck-hunting trips.
The incident report indicates that Purvis and Edwards were in Purvis’ boat when they were approached by another boat, operated by Umphlett, who began to follow them and yell racial profanities at them, threatening to kill them and “crush your skull in this lake.”
At Umphlett’s request, Purvis slowed down, and Umphlett’s boat rammed Purvis’ boat on the port side, knocking Edwards down. Then, according to both Purvis and Edwards, Umphlett started to climb in Purvis’s boat, twice punching Purvis. According to the report, Umphlett tried unsuccessfully to rip the tiller-controlled outboard motor off the boat’s transom and to rip the gas tank loose and throw both overboard, which would have left Purvis and Edwards stranded. Purvis eventually pulled out his shotgun, forcing Umphlett back into his own boat. The report said that while both boats were attempting to leave the lake by the mouth via the creek that connects it to the Alligator River, Umphlett told Purvis and Edwards he would kill them if they ever came back “to his lake.”
That incident led to two felony charges for “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill” and seven misdemeanor charges of communicating threats, operating a boat in a reckless manner, obstructing the passage of a boat, unlawful harassment of persons taking wildlife, injury to public personal property and assault inflicting serious injury.
Purvis, a cousin of Gov. Roy Cooper, described Umphlett as “foaming at the mouth” as he was cursing them.
“I don’t want to see this happen again, to anyone; it was very unfortunate, It was the kind of behavior that was hard to believe,” he said. “I’m just glad I didn’t have my 11-year-old son with me. He was going to go hunting with me that day, but he didn’t. If my son had been with me, I’m afraid he would never want to go duck hunting again.”
The felony charges — “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill”— are considered Class E felonies, which carry a minimum prison sentence of between 15 and 31 months.
The incident report said that when officers from the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department visited Umphlett at a hunting cabin in Tyrell County to ask about the incident, Umphlett admitted he “took to their ass” and continued to refer to Purvis and Edwards with racial epithets.
A second set of charges involve an incident on the morning of Dec. 27 when Umphlett and an unidentified companion motored into Swan Creek Lake and found Larry Gammon of Plymouth, N.C., and his son, Wesley, in a duck blind. The incident report said that Umphlett and his companion approached the blind in their boat — identified by the boat-registration number on the hull — and began to curse at them and use racial epithets, picking on the younger Gammon about his glasses, the way he talked, and describing his mother with a racial slur. Umphlett kept his boat in front of the blind, according to the report, until the Gammons gave up on hunting and moved elsewhere.
After the Dec. 27 incident, the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department obtained warrants for Umphlett for four misdemeanors, two each for communicating threats and unlawful harassment of persons legally taking wildlife.