The towering elk shot at Mapleton Avenue and Ninth Street by a Boulder police officer has been dead for almost a week, but the furor surrounding the animal's demise is still very much alive.
Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner addressed the elk's death and answered questions Monday at a community meeting requested by residents of the neighborhood where the elk was killed, with some of those residents calling the shooting a "murder."
"I know there is a lot of emotion around this issue," Beckner told about 70 people who gathered at the city's Public Safety Building on 33rd Street.
On New Year's Day, an officer on patrol at Ninth and Mapleton told police he encountered an injured elk that he determined needed to be put down. The officer killed the elk with a shotgun, then called an off-duty police officer who took the meat home to be processed. An on-duty Boulder County sheriff's deputy also helped load the animal into a truck.
But the Boulder police officer never reported the shooting and never told dispatchers about the incident. The two Boulder officers -- Sam Carter and Brent Curnow -- have been placed on paid leave as the Boulder Police Department conducts an internal investigation.
When asked if he believed the officer's story, Beckner said he didn't have enough facts to determine that, but added that there were enough facts to open the internal investigation.
"If we didn't think there were issues, we would not be investigating," he said. "It appears policies and procedure weren't followed. Now we need to either prove or disprove that."
But some members of the crowd did not take the same approach, with one comparing the paid leave to putting "murderers on vacation." Beckner also said he has received e-mails from people going as far as asking that the officers involved be executed.
The chief urged residents to let the investigation play out.
"We take the stance that everyone is innocent until proven guilty," he said. "But if that officer needs to be fired, I assure you he will be fired."
'Going to have more training'
Beckner said putting down an injured animal is not unusual for the police department and officers are trained to know how and when to euthanize injured wildlife. But he quickly added, "Believe me, we're going to have more training."
Many people in the crowd testified that the elk was never aggressive. Beckner
Click on any photo to see photo gallery
said police did get a call on Dec. 26 from a mailman who reported being trapped on a porch in the area by the animal. But one woman read an e-mail she claimed was from the mailman saying the incident was overblown.
Beckner reminded the crowd that the criminal investigation was being handled by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, not his own department.
He added that he would be concerned if the shooting was not warranted.
"We don't want our officers out there shooting animals if they don't have to," he said.
Rita Wilson with In Defense of Animals said the shooting should prompt policy changes in the department. She said violence toward animals was an indicator of violence toward people.
"They should have to go through an evaluation," she said.
While Beckner said there is always room to improve, he said he didn't think the incident called for any massive changes to the department's policy.
"If they want to shoot something, protocol is not going to stop them," Beckner said of his officers.
Meeting with City Council
Beckner also plans to address the Boulder City Council at the beginning of Tuesday night's regular meeting. The council convenes at 6 p.m. in the Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway.
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said last week that the council doesn't have the authority to order discipline for individual officers, but, as the voice of the community, council members do want answers about how the police department handles such cases.
In an e-mail to other City Council members Monday, Councilman Macon Cowles said he wants detailed information about police officers' contracts and how decisions are made about paid versus unpaid administrative leave, as well as information about how police would have handled a similar allegation involving civilians.
"This question is fundamental, and it is at the root of much of the public comment about the incident," Cowles wrote.
Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer contributed to this report.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner briefs City Council on elk shooting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway ___