Last week, two Boulder police officers, Sam Carter and Brent Curnow, were involved in the shooting of an elk in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood of Boulder spawning an internal investigation, the suspension of the two police officers and much controversy about the killing of the animal.
Boulder police say that an on-duty officer said that he saw the elk injured and decided it needed to be put down so he shot it with his shotgun. However the officer who shot the elk did not report the shooting nor did he notify his superiors that he fired his weapon. Later an off-duty Boulder officer came to pick up the elk's carcass, The Boulder Daily Camera reports. The, off-duty officer called in sick the night of the shooting and runs a taxidermy website.
The killing sparked outrage in the community and was followed by a candlelight vigil for the elk -- a vigil that drew hundreds of people.
There were also conflicting reports that the elk, which had been seen in the area for several weeks, was exhibiting agressive behavior toward humans, however a number of people living in the Mapleton neighborhood insist that not only was the elk healthy but that it was not agressive toward people.
Now Stan Garnett, the Boulder DA, is deciding whether or not to file criminal charges against the officers involved.
But the shooting has gotten the attention of many, Garnett said he has received 15,000 emails and phone calls about the elk case. An online petition requesting prosecution of the Boulder officers involved in the killing has already received more than 14,000 signatures, according to The Daily Camera.
And now the Mapleton Elk has a Twitter account. The mysterious person behind the Mapleton Elk's reincarnation as a Twitter feed asked to remain anonymous, but was happy to talk to The Huffington Post about why they took up this particular cause.
Do you live in the Mapleton community or just Boulder at-large?
Yes, I live two blocks from the site of the shooting in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood. The elk was in my yard earlier that day.
What made you want to start this campaign on behalf of the Mapleton Elk? Why start a Twitter meme for this cause? What's the inspiration?
I wanted to provide a forum for individuals to build community around the issue in a positive and constructive way. New media can serve as a powerful community organizing tool. I speak as the elk because that draws more attention, such as the front page of the Boulder Daily Camera, than straight up news. The Facebook page is more about informing, organizing and action and the Twitter handle approaches the subject with more levity. I think it also personalizes the elk who had no voice.
I use Saul Alinsky as a guide. He believed, "A good tactic is one your people enjoy." (like social media?) He also believed that it was critical to "keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."
And have you ever started a Twitter meme like this before?
No, I have not.
What are you doing to help bring awareness to the cause?
The Facebook page & the Twitter handle & t-shirts keep the issue at the forefront through people engaging by posting. The "No Hunting in our 'Hood" posters placed in local Boulder businesses also raises the profile. The process is assured to be long and arduous as Chief Beckner said the internal investigation could take one to two months. We need to keep the issue alive just as much as the Boulder Police Department wants it to die.
What is your goal?
My goal is to keep the issue in the forefront. The range of reparations to the harm caused to our neighborhood (and the larger Boulder community) includes:
1. Dismissal of those involved from the police department.
2. Criminal penalties.
3. Fines paid by those involved. Per Samson's Law - A bull elk with six-point antlers can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
4. Other sanctions on top of the criminal penalties for violating hunting rules such as not be able to possess a firearm.
5. Admission of guilt by those involved. The elk was not injured or aggressive and did not need to be euthanized. We knew this elk.
6. Raising the profile of other misconduct within the Boulder Police Department
7. Corrective actions to improve the culture of current widespread misconduct.
8. Something that can renew our faith in a Police Department that allowed this to occur. This neighborhood (Mapleton Hill) has lost faith. We don't trust them. Let's review the facts: Hunting isn't allowed in city limits. Unnecessary discharge of a weapon in a residential neighborhood to hunt an elk as a trophy. The officer did not file a report or notify dispatchers about the incident. In fact they communicated via personal mobile phones. A photo taken by a resident in the area shows Carter posing with the elk. Further, the off-duty Boulder officer called to help dispose of the elk had called in sick, operates taxidermy website. The list goes on.
What has the response been to what you're doing?
It has been heartening to see the analytics for both the Facebook page and the Twitter handle. Additionally, folks have been kind and supportive, for the most part, on those two sites.
We'll be meeting at high noon on Sunday, January 13th at 11th & Pearl Street for a silent (other than each walker playing an elk bugle audio file from mobile phones for the duration of the) walk. We will slowly walk the pedestrian mall from 11th to 15th Street where we will silently disband. This event will last no longer than 30 minutes. The purpose of this short walk is to continue to raise awareness of the "Justice for the Mapleton Elk's" cause and to keep the issue in the forefront. We are concerned that the investigation will drag its feet. We will not. Join us and bring your phone.