Escaped cow shot 11 times, killed at Cal Expo fairgrounds

11:33 PM, Jul 27, 2010   |    comments
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SLIDESHOW: Cow shot at the State Fair 

SACRAMENTO, CA - Cal Expo officials said it was justified, but others at the California State Fair wondered if it was necessary for fair police to shoot and kill a pregnant cow Tuesday morning after the animal broke free at the state fairgrounds.

According to fair officials, UC Davis veterinarian staff were unloading the cow in the livestock area around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday when the bovine broke free and headed toward the fairgrounds.  The dairy cow was supposed to give birth Wednesday and be a part of the Livestock Nursery attraction, Cal Expo deputy director Brian May said.

May said Cal Expo police were able to contain the animal in a tunnel, but before she could be tranquilized, the cow got free and headed into the fairgrounds.

"We spent more than an hour trying to coax her into a trailer," May said.

Eventually, police cornered her in front of the Golden1 performance stage, where they said she charged an officer after a tranquilizer gun misfired.

"It did charge the barricade. It charged a police officer on a bike. The officer got off the bike and it was run over," said May. "We had no choice but to kill the cow."

At least one officer fired the shots, striking the cow 11 times, according to May.

Dick Snider was one of several fair vendors setting up for the day who saw the fatal confrontation and said the shooting wasn't necessary.

"I said why don't you just get a rope, just walk up to it nicely, put a rope on it and take it back down to the barn?" Snider said.

Snider said he watched the cow pass his booth and said the animal didn't seem agitated.

"I couldn't stop shaking. It was so unexpected," vendor Carolyn Hadin said.

"I thought it was cruel. I thought it was excessive. It literally made me feel violently ill," said fellow vendor and parttime vet tech Nikki Sherman. "If they have livestock here, they should be able to handle it."

Others on the scene, however, said getting the animal contained was not that simple.  Even if the cow wasn't vicious, it was agitated, UC Davis veterinarian Ben Norman said.

"She was very unhappy," said Norman. "She was chasing people. She was going to hurt somebody.  I had a policeman shoot her so she wouldn't hurt anybody."

Norman did admit 11 shots may have been excessive, but was quick to defend the officers involved.

"They didn't know where to shoot her," he said. "It's not their normal program."

The calf also died in the shooting. No one else was injured in the incident, which occurred before the fair opened to visitors at noon.

May said even though the fair wasn't open, thousands of workers and vendors were on the grounds and they feared for their safety.

By Nick Monacelli,


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