Dead deer incident will be reviewed by city, Waynesville mayor tells council
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (June 17, 2010) — Mayor Cliff Hammock told Waynesville council members and residents Thursday night that he’s reviewed the way a recent incident was handled in which the Waynesville police chief directed an officer to shoot a baby deer in the parking lot of Mid-Missouri Credit Union.
Chief Bob Carter has said he directed the officer to shoot the fawn because police believed it was sick and state conservation agents couldn’t be reached to deal with the situation. However, credit union tellers had been trying for hours to save the fawn from being run over in their parking lot and were furious that police killed a deer they were trying to save.
After the deer was shot, Waynesville police learned that the local agent from the Missouri Department of Conservation assigned to Pulaski County was off-duty and his supervisor was out of town in a meeting. Both had their cell phones off and didn’t learn about the incident until it was over.
“I know that this has generated a lot of discussion on the part of the city staff as well as the council and within the community,” Hammock said, noting that he’s talked with area residents, city staff members, the city administrator and the police chief as well as reviewed multiple incident reports.
“It was a very, very difficult decision on the part of the staff and the officer who had to make that decision to put the animal down, and I know that decision generated a lot of discussion. I read a lot of the electronic threads, if you will, and unfortunately in situations like this sometimes lots of factual information, because of emotions, takes on a different flavor,” Hammock said. “What you do see in some cases is a lot of speculation and emotion.”
While acknowledging that “hindsight is 20-20” and noting that he didn’t want to be perceived as failing to support police, Hammock he believes after review that changes may need to be made in city procedures.
“I think we all feel that perhaps a better course of action could have probably been addressed to deal with the situation after the animal had been deemed to have humanely needed to have been put down,” Hammock said. “We are currently looking internally at our policies and how we can learn from this experience. Again, this is not to put down any of our law enforcement officers because we pay these men and women to put their lives on the line and make tough decisions on our behalf.”
That answer didn’t satisfy area resident Jim McHeffey.
“Before I start, can I ask you a question: Where is this dead animal located now?” McHeffey asked.
Hammock didn’t answer that question, so McHeffey continued.
“A statement was made that this animal was sick. If it was sick, then the carcass should have been turned over to somebody to determine if there was any actual disease,” McHeffey said. “I don’t agree with the statement that was put out. I’m not going to believe it.”
However, McHeffey said there are worse problems with the deer shooting incident than whether the deer needed to be shot because it was sick.
“My biggest problem with this thing was not whether or not that deer needed to be killed. I’ve looked over the area where the gunshots were fired, and it was reckless endangerment,” McHeffey said. “Just by looking at the area, even sitting in my car three feet above the road, looking at the hill, even if she fired directly into the hill, you can still see the tops of other cars. One of the councilmen lives over that way, by the way. Ricochets happen all the time.”
McHeffey said there’s also a thin treeline to the right of where the deer was shot with many houses beyond the treeline.
“That, sir, is public endangerment and reckless endangerment discharging a firearm when we aren’t protecting life and limb of a human being,” McHeffey said.
Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Luge said she’s received more than a hundred phone calls and other contacts from area residents concerned about how the deer incident was handled.
“We’ve had so much upset in the last few weeks about our animals,” Hardman said. “Because of our upset this week over the shooting of the fawn, things were said that we would be looking at our policies, and we’ll be looking at how to handle certain situations like this. I’ve been gathering information from many, many, many contacts over the last week and a half.”
Hardman passed on a sheet of suggestions to Police Committee Chairman Ed Conley on how future incidents could be handled.
“I would say I’ve probably had over a hundred contacts from people throughout the community about the fawn incident, and when you get through a lot of the hoopla there are really some good ideas out there,” Hardman said.