A text from a Boulder, CO police officer that an elk was “gonna die” was presented Friday in a third day of testimony before a jury. Sam Carter, 37, the now ex-officer, is accused of shooting the elk, posing for a picture with it, and then arranging to have another officer haul the carcass away in a cover-up attempt.
The shooting occurred in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, a place which could have inspired Norman Rockwell. Mature trees, turn of the century Queen Anne homes, expansive lawns and sprawling porches make the neighborhood a delight to walk and a seemingly great place to live. The famous Pearl Street Mall, North Boulder Park and trails accessing the popular Mount Sanitas are all nearby.
This postcard photo was destroyed on New Year’s night last year, when Carter shot and killed the largest resident of the neighborhood, a mature bull elk the residents called “Big Boy.” Carter and a fellow officer, Brent Curnow, were both arrested on charges of taking an elk out of season and misconduct. They both also resigned from the Boulder Police Department.
Curnow was off-duty at the time of the shooting and used his personal pickup truck to haul away the elk. Carter faces charges of tampering with evidence, unlawful taking of a big game animal, illegal possession of a trophy elk, attempting to influence a public official and official misconduct.
Carter does not deny that he–while on duty and in uniform–shot Big Boy. His trial centers on whether, as he claims, he did so because the bull elk was injured and aggressive or if the shooting was something he planned to do and then attempted to cover up. Curnow was charged with the same counts as Carter but he accepted a plea deal in exchange for his sentence being deferred, detention at home and probation.
In court on Thursday, Curnow acknowledged that texts he received from Carter prior to the killing had informed him of the officer’s plan to kill the ungulate. Curnow said Carter told him the animal was “gimped,” yet neighborhood residents disagree with this characterization. Before the start of his shift that evening, Deputy District Attorney Johnson reports that Carter had sent Boulder Officer Curnow a text saying “He’s gonna die.”
Johnson told the court “… Sam Carter had an illegal and selfish plan in mind. He was aware a bull elk had been up in that neighborhood. He was going to go up there and use his uniform and badge to poach it and take it as a trophy.” Prosecutor Johnson promised to present evidence in the trial that when Carter went to kill the elk, he turned off his GPS, did not tell his radio dispatchers and had forged road-kill tags for the animal.
On Friday, Boulder County sheriff’s deputy Jeff George testified that Sam Carter told him he had orders to shoot an elk in a Boulder neighborhood because it was injured in an accident. He characterized that statement by Carter as a “lie”. George testified that, before the shooting, Carter had discussed the elk with him at least twice.
When George arrived on the scene, he was “very surprised” at the enormous size of the dead elk. He answered in the affirmative when prosecutor Johnson asked if Carter was “proud” of the kill. The photo Carter took with the beast was like “something out of a hunting magazine,” he said. Rocky Mountain elk can weigh up to 700 pounds.
Calli Johnson, 21, a three-year resident, remembers the outrage when the news arrived on January 2, 2013. In response to Boulder Officer Carter’s “He’s gonna die” text, she said “The shooting was obviously preconceived and idiotic.”
By Gregory Baskin