Ex-DNR warden charged on suspicion of stealing firearms on the job
DNR chief warden: "This is the first time for any charges of this magnitude"
REEDSBURG, Wis. — A former Department of Natural Resources warden faces multiple counts of theft and misconduct on duty after investigators say he stole guns he seized in the field.
David Horzewski, 45, faces six counts of felony theft and two counts of misconduct on duty.
According to a criminal complaint, Horzewski was fired last July for using state equipment for personal purposes. Supervisors said he also used his DNR squad car on personal time and took his family out on a state-issued boat to go fishing.
DNR chief warden Todd Schaller said supervisors were completing the process of Horzewski’s termination when things weren’t adding up.
“We were trying to wrap up that part of it, and that’s when we determined something else was amiss, and that’s when we started the independent investigation,” Schaller said.
The complaint said Horzewski was told to relinquish all evidence and confiscated items to the DNR. Reports show the only thing he turned in was bloody clothing from a hunting accident. Horzewski’s supervisor noticed four firearms he said were seized were not accounted for.
The DNR handed the investigation over to the Capitol Police. According to the criminal complaint, detectives with that agency questioned Horzewski in February. As a result, they seized eight guns, along with a number of scopes, a bow, a set of antlers and two tree stands from Horzewski’s basement.
The complaint states those items had been kept in Horzewski’s basement since he seized them from people he cited, and he willingly turned them in to authorities.
While DNR officials in the criminal complaint said Horzewski was authorized to keep the weapons in his basement (which was also a home office), he was not authorized to hold them longer than policy allowed. Supervisors said he should have turned them into a designated facility in either Baraboo or Madison.
“The things that were outlined in the criminal complaint were far outside the policies and procedures that we follow,” Schaller said.
Investigators also interviewed people who had their firearms seized by Horzewski in the past. In the complaint, some of them said they were never given documentation of their weapon being confiscated.
In one case mentioned in the complaint, a man whose gun was taken by Horzewski died eight years after the confrontation. The complaint states that person was never charged with the crime related to that firearm, and Horzewski didn’t document the chain of custody as it relates to that weapon.
The complaint goes on to say detectives only found a dozen tags for seized items in Horzewski’s file in his 19 years of working as a DNR warden. All of those tags were for animals.
WKBT’s sister station, News 3 visited Horzewski’s home in Reedsburg and was told he was not available for comment.
“Within the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement we have been able to determine this is the first time for any charges of this magnitude,” Schaller said, “It certainly is not a reflection of our agency or our bureau of law enforcement and then law enforcement in general, it’s really the act of an individual.”
Horzewski is scheduled to appear in Sauk County Court June 11. The case will be prosecuted by the Monroe County district attorney.