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Officers Involved In Boulder Elk Shooting Placed On Leave

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Two police officers who were involved in the shooting of an elk have been placed on administrative leave while the Boulder Police Department investigates the incident.

Officers Sam Carter and Brent Curnow are now on leave with pay, Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said on Friday.

The elk was killed on Tuesday near the intersection of 9th and Mapleton, and Beckner said the incident wasn't reported by either officer until residents began to ask questions about the killing. He said Carter, who was was on duty and on patrol in the area at the time, ended up admitting he spotted the elk and felt the animal needed to be "humanely euthanized" because it was injured.

After Carter shot and killed it with a single shot, he called Curnow. After Carter posed for a photo with the elk, Curnow "took the elk in his own vehicle to process the meat for personal use," Beckner wrote in a letter to residents on Friday about the matter.

On a street near where the shooting happened there's a small memorial to the animal that has begun to grow. Several neighbors told CBS4 they feel there was no reason to kill the animal, and they are encouraging others to complain about what happened.

"He was just a majestic being and it's so sad that it came down to this, it's heartbreaking," neighbor Jennifer Centeno said.

Mark Rourke, a postal carrier who delivers mail to the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, told CBS4 the elk had been seen in the neighborhood over the past week or two, and that although it once cornered him on a porch, it didn't deserve to die.

"I think it was just being defensive. I scared it when I walked through the gate," he said. "It makes me sick, it just makes me sick. It was a beautiful animal."

Beckner's complete letter to residents is as follows:

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.

Very truly,
Mark Beckner, Chief of Police

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