Fallout lingers six months after deer shootings

Resident who filed formal complaint against FLPD proposes animal dispatch policy


Six months after a Forest Lake police officer acting on a request from the DNR dispatched two deer on the property of a Forest Lake homeowner, the debate rages on regarding the steps that led to the pre-dawn incident on North Shore Trail.

A city council work session on Wednesday, July 11 marked just the latest in a series of discussions to address the issue and – with the absence of two council members – the matter came no closer to resolution, despite some energized exchanges.

The main development on Wednesday was the presentation to the council of an animal dispatch policy proposed by Jeff Carpenter, the resident who cared for the two fawns which were shot outside his home on Jan. 14.

The Forest Lake resident of about 35 years opened the meeting by outlining his experience that morning, the ramifications it had on his family and the disappointment he holds in the city and police department.

“The shocking blast and the bloodbaths that ensued that morning will forever change our lives,” Carpenter said. “These dangerous actions were taken by a Forest Lake cop using poor judgement which could have ended in a loss of human life to himself, or even worse, to us.

“We’re extremely frustrated with the Forest Lake Police Department, their stand on no wrong-doing, nor have we had any apologies ever been offered from the department, the city or the officer in the shooting.”

Click here to view the full text of Jeff Carpenter’s presentation on July 11.

Rather than take pro-bono lawyers up on their offer to sue, Carpenter said he is aiming to take the high road by instead pursuing the city’s adoption of an animal dispatch policy that would prevent such delicate incidents.

Councilmembers Jim DuFour and Jackie McNamara squared off on the matter later in the work session. Each reinforced the stance they have held since the council first looked into the matter in January.

McNamara said the city “can’t just let it go” and called for the development of a policy similar to the one Carpenter presented which calls for authorities to make reasonable efforts to notify private property owners before entering their land to dispatch animals.

“People from out of state and from the other side of the country have e-mailed all of us on the city council appalled by the fact that these two innocent fawns were shot down so close to someone’s home,” McNamara said. “My personal response is there’s no excuse for it at all. I understand the relationship between our police department and the DNR. I understand we have to work together. But I also understand that there are always circumstances where conditions need to be considered.”

DuFour disagreed completely.

“I think we shouldn’t have any policy at all,” he said. “We shouldn’t tie the police department’s hands, we shouldn’t tie the DNR’s hands, to do the job that they know how to do.”

Mayor Chris Johnson jumped in when the exchange escalated and reverted to the details of Jan. 14 rather than the discussion of a policy.

“This is, I think, the third or fourth workshop on this topic,” Johnson said. “So I think we’ve pretty well hashed out our feelings on this…I feel like we’ve given it plenty of time and discussion.”

City officials remain staunchly opposed to such a policy. Police Chief Rick Peterson feels the notion of notifying property owners in such situations often would not be feasible and he said a city ordinance would hold no water.

“Whether or not the city adopts the proposed policy, federal, state and county law enforcement officers will continue to enforce current federal, state and county laws and will not be affected by the new policy,” he said. “Police officers in the city of Forest Lake will continue to enforce the federal, state and local [laws] that are passed by our elected officials as we have done so in the past.”

Peterson and City Administrator Aaron Parrish both mentioned that City Attorney Dave Hebert strongly opposes an animal dispatch policy.

“Ultimately there is a lot of potential challenges with this policy,” Parrish said. “The other component is, as the city attorney advised, there is limitations or consequences on restricting officer discretion in those situations in terms of how that works from a legal perspective.

“It’s a very challenging issue,” he continued. “I think there’s definitely some lessons learned from this issue, but the other side of it is there are instances where it is important, as [Chief Peterson] indicated, to have the discretion and ability to enter private property to enforce game laws.”

McNamara pressed Parrish as to what lessons he referred to, and he cited a higher sensitivity to such cases throughout the collective consciousness of the city and police department.

“I think that’s what we’re trying to get at with this policy,” McNamara replied. “I think to completely ignore this policy would be the wrong direction to take.”

Even with Peterson’s opposition, McNamara wants to see his department assist in the development of a policy.

“There hasn’t been anybody from the police department working on a policy,” she said. “They should be the ones. They worked on why not to have one.”

The issue will likely carry over to the city council’s July 23 meeting. A split vote appears in the cards as the two councilmembers absent on Wednesday have previously taken stances that appear to be in opposition. Mike Freer has stated that the shootings were not appropriate as carried out, while Susan Young has said she does not support establishing new protocol.

  • M

    A police officer enters my property without a warantor permission to discharge a weapon or just to walk around is that treaspassing? I think so private property is just that without a warant he had no right to enter proerty without permission he was not chasing a criminal a knock on the door could have avoided this whole issue probaly with out a shot being fired
    police think they are above the law and can make their own policy

  • P. Paul

    Give it a rest. I’m as sad as anybody that the deer were shot. However, one isolated incident in the history of the world should not lead to all this time being wasted to discuss a policy that wouldn’t matter anyway. It’s obvious by the article that a policy is only supported by McNamara and the people who put the collars on the deer in the first place – which violated a policy ironically. McNamara only is pushing it because she seems to just want to disagree with fellow council members and city staff every step of the way. That is her M.O. on any topic that comes up. She just votes no on everything or tries to create more bureacracy to say no to everything else. Out of touch and, come November, out of office!

  • Dave Madison

    Folks i live within two miles of where this took place, I drive that same road several times a week on more than 3-4-occations i had to slow dow to see what the color collard deer were going to do run across the road stop in the road ? it’s bad enough to play dodge the deer with the wild ones, from the very start the wrong thing to do was to tame a wild animal, if they ran out and caused and accident woul Mr. Carpenter whip out the check book and pick ip the cost, eve worse some one get’s hurt , come on folk’s let’s get over it and move on.

  • http://Whatabouttheotherrisks? Kay

    I respect the route that Carpenter is taking by requesting a policy to ensure the safety of people and truly for the officers both. I was personally appalled by this situation for other reasons than the fawns or private property. I have a child that wakes up early and goes outside to attend her critters before school, even in the dark – if it had been my property – her life would have been put at risk by this officer. The first rule of gun use is know what is beyond the target – if it’s predawn you CAN’T know whats beyond the target so shooting in a residential in the dark area is a HUGE risk to all those around. As far as accuracy of an officer we had to call a police officer to shoot a fawn that had been hit by a car and had broke its front two legs. It took three shots for the officer to hit it -and that deer was already critically wounded and having a hard time moving around but it was still a moving target. After the first shot missed we ducked behind concrete because, it was nerve racking and we were aware it was happening but we were shocked the officer had such a hard time of disposing of the poor thing. But I was expecting Hollywood accuracy – but we learned this is the real world and even a trained police officer doesn’t have perfect markmanship. So please think – there is a bigger picture here and it is the safety of FL residents – I don’t want any officer coming on to my property with guns blazing in the dark trying to shoot a moving target – because my child could be doing her chores out there and be very easily mistaken as a moving shadow of the deer. Is it really worth all this bloated politics to not protect the citizens from something so simple? I believe Mr. Carpenter’s idea of a policy would protect Forest Lake’s police department from the public opinion nightmare that we have all just lived through when this went national. We have a great police force – let’s keep them that way and also protect their reputation and promote their respectable presence in our community by giving them smart guidelines that they can make good judgement calls with. Just think what if it were your home and what if you or your child had been out there because they let the dog out and it didn’t come right in because of the commotion of the deer. A moving shadow is a moving shadow. Is it really worth the risk to play politics? Good guidelines empower good judgement. . .

  • http://aol.com jeff bloomquist

    two wrongs never make a right, to tame these deer in the first place was wrong,nature should ahve been allowed to take its course ,on the other hand to go onto private property with out a warrent ,nor with TRUE justfication is also wrong, more policies are not the answer here folk’s more like common sence is the answer , and i might add a little courtsey would have helped ,the childeren should have never seen this act,understandably the police had to act in some manner weather this was correct or not is debatable,how ever let’s not waste any more tax payer dollars debating this issue ,move on lessons learned and get over it,,