BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4/AP) – A former Boulder police officer accused of illegally killing an elk was convicted on all nine counts on Tuesday and could face six years in prison.
Sam Carter killed the animal on Jan 1, 2013, as it grazed under a crabapple tree in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood in west Boulder. His defense argued the animal was injured and aggressive. Prosecutors said Carter poached the elk and used his position as an officer to capture a trophy animal and cover it up.
Witnesses for the prosecution, including some law enforcement officers, testified that Carter had planned to kill the elk — called “Big Boy” by locals — and was warned not to.
After shooting the elk, prosecutors said, Carter called a friend and former officer to pick up the elk’s carcass and butcher it. They also said Carter later forged a tag to pass off the dead animal as road kill.
“They had no right to use their standing as police officers to poach this animal and lie about it,” Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said.
The killing sparked intense protests in the college town, where the shooting sparked prayer vigils and at least one tribute song.
Witnesses who testified on behalf of the elk said the sight of the hulking animal was a highlight on countless hikes and jogs.
The charges included attempting to influence a public official, one count of forgery, two counts of tampering with physical evidence, first-degree official misconduct, illegal possession of a trophy elk, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, unlawfully taking a big game animal out of season, and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife.
Jurors took about three hours to reach the verdict.
“The public should be very thankful to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for the terrific and thorough investigation they did in this case and to the Boulder Police Department, who immediately rallied to help us in the investigation,” Garnett said.
Mapleton Hill residents told CBS4 news they’re relieved and hope Carter receives the maximum sentence.
Boulder animal activist Jessica Sandler applauded the verdict.
“It is so rare for an animal to get any semblance of justice in our court system,” she told The Daily Camera.
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