US Supreme Court denies death-penalty petition from Adams County man who murdered conservation officer


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a petition from the Adams County man sentenced to death for the murder a Wildlife Conservation Officer, according to Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner.

Christopher Lynn Johnson, 32, of Fairfield, Adams County, fatally shot WCO David L. Grove, then 31, during a "ferocious exchange of gunfire" after Grove stopped Johnson for suspected poaching on Nov. 11, 2010.

Johnson, already a convicted felon, was later found guilty of first-degree murder and then sentenced to death Oct. 4, 2012. In Pennsylvania, the murder of a law-enforcement officer is punishable by death.

Johnson had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate his death sentence, but they turned him down Monday without hearing the case.

That was the last appeal available for him regarding his death sentence; the next available step would be to appeal the conviction back to Adams County Court of Common Pleas, according to Wagner.

Background: Grove was on nighttime patrol looking for game-law violations when "he witnessed what he believed to be a poaching incident," specifically spotlight hunting with gunfire, according to officials at the time.

Grove called for backup and ordered Johnson and a passenger out of Johnson's pickup truck.

"There was a struggle around the car and an exchange of gunfire," said then-Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski, describing it as a "ferocious" firefight.

Cumberland Township Police officers arrived at the scene two minutes after Grove called for backup, but Johnson and his passenger were gone, and Grove was already shot, Pawlowski said at the time.

Grove had also called in the license-plate number of Johnson's pickup truck, which allowed police to quickly identify their suspect, he said.

— Reach Sean Cotter at