BOULDER, Colo. - Two Boulder Police officers involved in the shooting death of an elk have been placed on administrative leave, according to police chief Mark Beckner.
Beckner tweeted Friday morning, "Two officers involved in Elk shooting incident have been placed on Admin Leave w/pay pending the outcome of investigations."
Beckner also Tweeted a letter to the community about twenty minutes before announcing the officers were on leave.
"We share your concern regarding the elk that was killed in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013," the letter said. "We take the situation very seriously and would like you to know that there are two separate investigations underway to determine the facts and details of this incident." (Read the entire letter below.)
One officer, Sam Carter, said he was on routine patrol when he saw an elk that he said appeared to be injured.
"In the officer’s judgment, the animal needed to be humanely put down," Boulder Police said Thursday.
Officials said Officer Carter shot and killed the elk with one shot from a shotgun.
The family who lives at the home where the elk was shot told 7NEWS the elk came to their yard often because he liked to snack on their crabapple tree.
"He was a little aggressive at times, I think he just really wanted to eat," said Lara Koenig. "He was a little bit lost sometimes. He used to wander down the back of all our backyards."
Koenig said the elk was a bit of a neighborhood legend.
"Everyone had different names for him, we called him Big Boy, other people called him Rufus or Humphrey," said Koenig. "Everyone has their different names or different connections to him, but he's been around for a couple years."
Koenig told 7NEWS the police officer told them he came by to check on the elk because police had taken reports about an aggressive elk in the area. The officer told the family not to be surprised if they heard a gunshot and a couple minutes later they did.
The family said the officer took pictures with the elk, then a black pick-up truck pulled up and took the elk.
"The elk was taken home to be processed for meat by another officer, who was off-duty at the time," Boulder Police said.
The off-duty officer has been identified as Brent Curnow.
Curnow and Carter were put on administrative leave.
"It appears that the officer did not inform Boulder Police Dispatch about his intentions to dispatch the animal, nor did he notify an on-duty supervisor or file a report on the incident," Boulder Police said in a news release sent to 7NEWS on Thursday. "Since there was no record about the Boulder Police Department’s involvement, it created confusion about who was responsible. We apologize for the confusion and have initiated an internal personnel investigation into the matter."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it is also investigating the shooting to determine whether a crime was committed. CPAW has also claimed part of the elk.
An on-duty Boulder sheriff's deputy was also on scene. A spokesperson told 7NEWS the deputy is not under investigation at this point and was asked to file a report after the incident came to light.
Boulder Police write letter to community
On Friday morning, Boulder Police chief Mark Beckner issued a letter to the commuity via Twitter:
Jan. 4, 2012 - Chief of Police letter to public regarding Mapleton elk
Dear Members of the Public,
We share your concern regarding the elk that was killed in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. We take the situation very seriously and would like you to know that there are two separate investigations underway to determine the facts and details of this incident.
Two Boulder police officers were involved; one was on duty and the other was off duty. According to the on-duty officer, he was patrolling the Mapleton Hill area when he saw the elk. He said the elk was limping and that it appeared to be injured. In his judgment, he believed the elk needed to be humanely euthanized. The officer dispatched the elk with one shot from his shotgun and called another off-duty officer to come pick up the elk carcass. The off-duty officer took the elk in his own vehicle to process the meat for personal use.
The first investigation is a criminal investigation which is being conducted by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CDPW). The CDPW’s investigation will focus on whether a crime was committed by the officers. The Boulder Police Department is cooperating fully with wildlife officials and cannot comment on the agency’s investigation. Questions should be directed to CDPW.
The second investigation is an internal personnel investigation being conducted by the Boulder Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit (internal affairs). This type of investigation is standard procedure when an officer is accused of wrongdoing or of not following policies. In this case it appears that the officers involved did not follow standard procedures in alerting police dispatch, contacting a supervisor about how to deal with the injured elk or following up with a written incident report. We will also be awaiting the outcome of the criminal investigation before reaching any conclusions. This could take several weeks to complete.
Both officers are entitled to due process in the course of the investigation, which is required by contract and policy. Once the internal investigation is completed, the information is forwarded to the employee’s chain of command for review and recommendations to the Chief of Police. After this review, the report is reviewed by a panel made up of both citizens and sworn officers who also make recommendations to the Chief. The Chief of Police will make the final decision as to the disposition of the case and whether disciplinary measures may be appropriate.
The Boulder Police Department conducts thorough personnel investigations, and they can take several weeks to complete.
We appreciate your concern about this matter and can assure you that it is receiving serious attention and investigation as outlined above.
Mark Beckner, Chief of Police