Thursday, May 12, 2011
No Crowd Control in Murder of Mountain Lion
We have more details. The EP Times had a front page story this morning. Although it was slanted toward the view that the animal was aggressively dangerous and the policeman's (and TABC agent's) actions were justifiable, it still gave the salient facts: male lion, 4 years old, shot and killed at the H&H Car Wash by an El Paso police officer and a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Agent. (What was he doing there? Drunk lion?) The after-killing justification was that shooting the animal beyond the boundaries of the car wash could have meant ricocheting bullets that could have endangered people.
So, if people were in danger, why didn't El Paso police control the crowd? Reportedly there were dozens of people on the scene. See the KTSM video again. A longer video published by KVIA reveals little effort to disburse the crowd. The lion appears hungry, tired . . . and scared but not aggressive.
As officials waited for the first tranquilizer to take effect, crowds gathered hanging off the car wash chain gates trying to get pictures and video of the mountain lion stressing it out further and creating the very public safety hazard that the killing of the lion would later be blamed on. Remember - the videos show little or no effort to disburse the crowd or cordon off the area. It was a carnival atmosphere and the police (and I guess the TABC) did nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
A police officer and a TABC officer shooting their guns not far from a school seems to be a far greater public safety risk than a drugged mountain lion who would have been asleep in just another minute before being gunned down. I still want to know what the heck the TABC agent was doing there - did he have jurisdiction?)
Once again, it was just a few seconds after a second "stick" of tranquilizer hit the cat when a police officer and the TABC agent opened fire. All videos show an animal trying to avoid people and not an animal being aggressive. The words of the State Veterinarian ring true: "Ugh you idiot! No need for this!"
We can only hope that the City of El Paso, its police department, and others will turn to wildlife experts now and develop better ways to deal with similar situations in the future.
Both the police department and the TABC need to be investigated. How are officers trained? Is there a protocol for encountering mountain lions or other wild animals or do we just shoot to kill when wildlife experts are in the process of tranquilizing the animals? What jurisdiction did the TABC have? Why didn't police cordon off the area? So many questions.
At the end of the KVIA video, an officer is being admonished: "Don't talk to a reporter. Get back here." The cover-up had already begun.