An elk shot dead by Colorado police was so beloved by its community that more than 200 people showed up for a vigil Sunday for the slain animal.
The elk, which was considered a “guardian” by some residents of Boulder, was shot dead by a city police officer, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
“He was a beautiful animal,” Boulder resident Nancy Platt told the paper. “He was hurting nobody. He didn’t deserve what he got.”
According to police, the officer shot the elk with a shotgun after he observed injuries to the animal, the paper reported. The elk reportedly was limping and some of its antlers had broken off.
A woman who saw the elk disputed the police account and said she did not see the animal limping a few hours before it was shot and killed.
The vigil, held on Mountain View Road near where the elk was shot dead by the officer, was organized by Jim Riemersma.
Riemersma told the Daily Camera that he organized the vigil for the dead elk to give the community “a little bit of closure” over the beloved animal.
“I know a lot of us have had a lot of anger, a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty,” he told the paper. “[Sunday night was] a celebration, a celebration of the elk. We loved him. But I think he loved us, too, because he returned to this neighborhood.”
While some Boulder residents adored the elk, others said the animal was acting aggressively in the neighborhood, according to the Daily Camera.
“He was part of the neighborhood,” Boulder resident Bobby Brown told the paper.
Meghan Stephens, a resident of the Boulder suburb of Louisville, attended the vigil with her husband and 14-month-old daughter. Her sister lives in Boulder, and she said she came in support of the neighborhood.
“It was a beautiful, beautiful elk,” Stephens said.
The officer who shot the elk was placed on paid administrative leave and the department is investigating, according to the paper.
Another officer, who was off-duty at the time the elk was shot, was also placed on leave for allegedly helping the other cop load the animal’s body into a pickup truck and hauling it to be processed for meat, the Daily Camera reported.
Those who attended the vigil called on the officers to be fired and yelled, “jail the poachers,” according to the paper.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner was scheduled to meet with concerned residents Monday. He was also expected to address the matter Tuesday with the Boulder City Council, the Daily Camera reported.
Mitchell Byars, a reporter for the Colorado paper, tweeted that Beckner received e-mails urging that the officers be executed.
The police chief noted the oddity of the situation, saying it’s the “first time anything like this has happened” in Boulder, according to Byars.