A woman in Lethbridge, Alta., captured a disturbing incident on her cellphone of a police officer running over a deer multiple times with his patrol vehicle as the animal lay dying on a street in the city’s north end.
Erica Pritchard said she was driving with her father along Scenic Drive North in the late hours of Jan. 5 when she witnessed a car slam into the rear end of a young deer, apparently breaking its back legs.
Pritchard said no humans were hurt in the incident, but when the Lethbridge officer arrived on the scene she was shocked to see the officer run back and forth over the injured animal twice with his truck.
“I figured that that’s not what you’re supposed to do,” said Pritchard, who pulled out her cellphone and began recording the incident. “Hearing the deer screaming every time he ran over it was shocking.”
In the almost 15-minute video, shared exclusively with Global News, the officer runs over the injured animal slowly with his truck at least four additional times. The video begins with the officer running over the animal with his front tires as the animal shrieks in pain.
WATCH: A woman in Lethbridge, Alta., has captured video of a disturbing incident on her cellphone. It shows a police officer running over a deer multiple times with his patrol vehicle as the animal lay dying on a street in the city’s north end. Matt Battochio reports. WARNING: This story contains graphic and disturbing content.
Roughly seven minutes later, the young deer raises its head and attempts to struggle to its feet before falling to the ground. The vehicle then runs back and forth over the animal twice more before stopping on top of the animal.
The video ends with the officer exiting his vehicle and dragging the animal to the side of the road before driving off.
“It made me feel really sick, actually, where we couldn’t watch anymore,” Pritchard said. “We turned up the music a little bit in the truck so we wouldn’t hear the screaming of the deer.”
It is unclear why the officer did not use his standard issue sidearm to kill the injured deer. Lethbridge police Chief Robert Davis said the incident was being referred to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) for investigation.
“After watching the video, I understand the concerns people have and I can assure the community that we take this very seriously,” Davis said. “The ASIRT investigation will review the officer’s actions as well as our current policies and procedures for responding to injured animal calls.”
Davis welcomed the ASIRT investigation to identify any gaps in police policy when it comes to euthanizing injured animals.
“My whole career, you deal with an animal by shooting it,” he said. “However, there may be circumstances where that is not practical, and if that is a gap that is identified in the investigation, then we will rectify that gap.”
“At this time, I’m not familiar with any processes outside of using a [firearm],” he added. “You want to end the suffering as quickly as possible.”
Davis said the officer involved will remain assigned to active duties until the investigation is completed.
ASIRT is the province’s civilian oversight agency responsible for the investigation of incidents involving police that resulted in serious injury or death as well as any serious allegations of police misconduct.
The agency confirmed to Global News that it is now investigating the incident, but no timeline has been given for when the investigation might be completed.
For Pritchard, she hopes Lethbridge police review how officers handle incidents in which wildlife are injured during traffic collisions to prevent unnecessary suffering.
“A cop shouldn’t be running over deer like this. That is actually animal abuse,” she said. “Someone should take action on the matter.”
An Alberta SPCA spokesperson said because the deer isn’t livestock or a companion animal, this case does not fall under their jurisdiction so they won’t be investigating. As an organization, they said they are disappointed and the video clearly depicts an inhumane way to kill the animal.
A petition calling for the Lethbridge police officer to be fired had garnered more than 4,300 signatures by 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
Calgary-based lawyer Stefanie Stamm told Global News that she believes the officer in the video broke the law.
“There are laws in place, both provincially and federally, to protect animals from suffering exactly how this deer suffered. And police officers are sworn to uphold those laws,” she said.
Stamm is on maternity leave from HD Law Group and serves on the board of advisors for Animal Justice Canada.
“The fact that it was a police officer who actually was violating specific laws that he was sworn to uphold is disgusting,” she said.
“This police officer should have criminal charges laid against him.”