PETA may have jumped gun in outrage over dead steer

April 27, 2002|By Gregory Kane


That's what the folks at PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, would have you believe Officer Ian Cameron of the Baltimore Police Department committed April 18.

You may have heard the story by now. It ran on WJZ earlier this week and in Dan Rodricks' column yesterday. About 9:30 a.m. on the day in question, a steer escaped from a slaughterhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore. Perspicacious critter must have known what was afoot. He roamed the nearby area until he ran into a dead end in an alley behind the 1900 block of Herbert St. Officers from the police emergency unit and a SWAT team were dispatched to the scene.

Attempting to subdue the steer without killing him, officers fired two tranquilizer darts into the animal.

"That only made the steer mad," Ragina Averella, a police spokeswoman, said yesterday. "The steer started to charge Officer Cameron. He fired two shots and killed it."

Enter PETA, who you figure wouldn't let publicly popping a cap in a steer go by without a fuss. On April 19, Todd Stosuy of PETA's Research, Investigations and Rescue Department dashed off this missive to Chief Ellen Schwartz, the head of the police department's Internal Affairs Division.

"We are asking the IAD to investigate this incident to determine if the firing of the officer's weapon was justified. If citizens who witnessed this incident report that the cow did not charge at officers, than (sic) we believe the officer would be in violation of Maryland Anti-Cruelty Statutes."

Specifically, Statute 59, Section B, which states that people are guilty of cruelty to animals if they `intentionally mutilate or cruelly kill an animal.' If it is found that the officer did not have justification to fire his weapon, we urge you to reprimand him to the fullest extent of the law."

It appears PETA members may have jumped the gun just a tad in huffing that the department launch an investigation "to determine if the firing of the officer's weapon was justified." They may have also revealed an ignorance of standard operating procedure within the Baltimore Police Department.

"Any discharge of a police officer's weapon is reviewed," Averella said. "If a pit bull lunges at an officer while he's serving a search-and-seizure warrant and the officer shoots the dog, it's reviewed." In short, Baltimore police brass do not allow cops to run around shooting weapons willy-nilly. Deadly force is allowed only when an officer believes his life or the lives of others are in danger.

Officer Cameron, seeing a 1,000-pound steer barreling toward him at top speed, probably figured the rules of deadly force applied. In recent years, all kinds of activists and professional protesters and a smattering of race hustlers sprinkled in among them have deigned to lecture police nationwide about appropriate uses of deadly force.

When Officer Charles Smothers shot a knife-wielding James Quarles near Lexington Market in 1997, there were the lecturers, shouting that Smothers had committed murder. When career thug Larry Hubbard was shot wrestling for an officer's gun in East Baltimore two years later, they were out in force again. Now, the folks at PETA want in on the action.

The Police Department investigation of the shooting determined that Officer Cameron acted within the bounds of department policy for discharging a weapon. As you may have surmised, that didn't mollify PETA.

"We're greatly disappointed," Stosuy said yesterday morning. "We don't feel the police commissioner gave a thorough investigation into the incident. He gave it a cursory examination. I would like to see a thorough investigation." Stosuy indicated that if such an investigation necessitated bringing in parties from impartial agencies outside the department, so be it.

Just what such an impartial investigation would prove is not clear. There is an amateur videotape of this incident, which WJZ aired on Thursday. Stosuy had his own reaction to it.

"I saw the two tranquilizer darts in the steer," Stosuy said. "It did not appear he was angered. What I viewed of the tape showed he walked away casually."

When I viewed the tape on WJZ, I thought the steer was running at a full head of steam. Cameron thought likewise. Whose view should prevail in this, Stosuy's or Cameron's, the guy who was directly in the path of the steer?

Boy, this is a tough one. Let me see. Cop trained for six months in a police academy on exactly what to do in these situations or a representative of a group that made light of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's prostate cancer?

I think I'll go with the cop.

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