A scenic and historic neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado was shattered
late on New Year's Day when police shot and killed a bull elk that made his
home in the area and was called "our guardian" by area residents. He had
been a part of the neighborhood wildlife for at least three years. The
controversy erupted after police initially denied the shooting.
The animal was killed near Ninth and Mapleton in a city that is rife with wandering wildlife such as deer, fox, coyotes, rabbits, bears, raccoons, squirrels, and even the occasional mountain lion. The police amended their report on Thursday after they discovered that an officer did shoot the elk but had failed to report the incident. The officer claims that the animal was injured and that he put it down with a single shot from a shotgun. He gave the body to an off duty police officer.
While the officer had told neighbors that the animal had become injured and aggressive, residents in the area who had seen the animal in the hours before the shooting deny that the animal was injured or acting aggressively. Now they are claiming that the officer's story just isn't adding up. Nor is the fact that the on-duty officer did not file a report on the shooting or notify the dispatcher of the incident. The off-duty officer took the animal to be butchered for meat, despite the fact that the state carefully monitors out-of-season game, be it from road kill or any other means. Even for collecting road kill, a license is required.
On Friday both officers involved in the incident were placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation. In addition to the two police officers, a sheriff's deputy on duty that night is also under investigation for helping to load the elk into a truck. The deputy has not been placed on leave. Both of the police officers are also under investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Under Samson's Law, which was passed in 1998 after a poacher killed an elk with that name in Estes Park (which resulted in just a minor fine), each officer could face fines of $10,000 as well as criminal prosecution for other hunting violations. Hunting is never allowed within city limits and elk are not in season.
The Boulder County District Attorney's office has been inundated by phone calls and emails from outraged city and county residents. The office is asking for patience since the internal and Parks and Wildlife investigations are separate progress in this case is going to take some time.