Outrage over deer shot by Oakland officer
(05-04) 19:21 PDT OAKLAND -- Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said Tuesday that he was "unhappy" that an officer shot and killed a young deer in an East Oakland backyard over the weekend and promised an internal investigation into what led to the decision to open fire.
The deer, estimated to be about a year old, was shot in a backyard of a home on the 1700 block of 90th Avenue at about 11 a.m. Saturday. The shooting was captured on video by Anthony Weems, 28, who was among many residents who were outraged Tuesday that police had killed the animal.
"That could have been handled in a much better way," Weems said. "The kids that were there, they go to the zoo to pet these animals. All of us are upset. Somebody has to speak up."
In a statement, Batts said, "I'm unhappy with the results of this incident. I do not like what I saw. We are reviewing our policies and our procedures surrounding this incident to ensure that something like this does not happen again. I understand the importance of life and am working toward implementing strategies that will result in humane outcomes in our future contacts with wildlife."
The incident began when two Oakland Housing Authority officers spotted the deer running on the 8700 block of Birch Street at about 10:30 a.m., said housing authority spokesman Marcus Walton. The officers saw the deer running into the carport on 90th Avenue behind a home belonging to Kim McElmore. The animal then jumped a fence and ended up in Brian Campbell's backyard.
The housing authority officers notified Oakland animal control and the state Department of Fish and Game, Walton said.
But sources said that before a state game warden could arrive, Oakland police Sgt. Terrance West ordered another officer to kill the deer. The officer, whose name was not released, fired several shots, but the deer did not die immediately, so he fired several more shots, Weems said. A total of six or seven shots were fired but it was not known how many hit the deer.
"I feel they shouldn't have killed Bambi," Campbell said. "The Oakland Zoo was right up the street. They could have called the Oakland Zoo and said, 'Look, you know, we have this little baby deer, can you come down and take it back to the wild?' "
Oakland animal control officers were on the scene, but they were not trained to handle wildlife such as deer, said Officer Jeff Thomason, an Oakland police spokesman. The department oversees animal control officers.
In general, Oakland officers are allowed to kill animals that are injured or pose threats to public safety, said Officer Holly Joshi, a department spokeswoman. Witnesses said the deer did not appear to be hurt and posed no threat.
"Public safety (threat) to whom? Because it's back here in the corner?" McElmore, 38, asked, pointing to where the animal was killed.
McElmore's husband, Elnorse McElmore, agreed, saying, "The deer was scared. It wasn't doing anything. The whole time, it was in the corner, shaking."
Susan Heckly, wildlife rehabilitation director at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, said Tuesday that she saw the video but didn't know the circumstances that led to the decision to shoot the deer.
Nevertheless, "from my vantage point, I would say that is not Plan A - that was probably a bad decision," Heckly said. "I don't know the police force's level of knowledge about wildlife or animals and how they train their officers."