No charges for Lethbridge officer who repeatedly ran over injured deer
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2019 11:43AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 26, 2019 6:15PM MDT
The Lethbridge police officer who used his vehicle to kill an injured deer earlier this year won’t be charged, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said Wednesday.
The officer was in uniform and driving a marked police vehicle when he was called to deal with an injured deer in the 1600 block of Scenic Drive S. just after 10 p.m. on Jan. 5.
The deer had suffered serious injuries to its hind quarters when it was hit by another vehicle.
A citizen recorded the incident, which shows the officer driving his vehicle back and forth over the deer several times.
The officer had access to a number of firearms, said ASIRT lawyer Greg Gudelot, but opted not to use one as the deer was on the roadway, increasing the risk of ricochet.
“This left him with the options of his baton or a similar blunt force weapon such as a tire iron, his tactical knife, and the use of the police vehicle,” said Gudelot.
“With respect to the police vehicle, he believed that if he drove the heavy vehicle over a vulnerable, critical part of the deer’s anatomy, causing a crushing injury, death would be virtually instantaneous.”
It took about 15 minutes for the animal, described as a female juvenile mule deer weighing about 60 to 70 pounds, to die.
Gudelot added Lethbridge police policy prevented the officer from using his tactical knife, but there was no language in the policy against using the vehicle, which he called “the best in a bad pool of choices.”
“While the events reflected in the video can be clinically recounted, the emotional impact of the video cannot be understated. It was and remains profoundly distressing and heartbreaking to watch. It is unforgettable and is impossible to unsee.”
Alberta Fish and Wildife was not called, said Gudelot, as the nearest available officer was in Cardston, about an hour away.
There was also no protocol in place for officers to access emergency veterinary care.
“While available in theory, the practical reality of trying to find and speak to a veterinarian from the side of the road at 10:24 (p.m.) on any given night presents challenges,” said Gudelot.
The ASIRT investigation involved Alberta Fish and Wildlife as well as the Alberta SPCA.
Gudelot said the officer provided a statement to investigators and allowed access to his notes, which he was not required to do.
The name of the officer will not be released.
An online petition calling for the officer to be fired has garnered more than 96,000 signatures.