Update: Dan Williams has been sentenced to two years of probation for shooting and killing two bear cubs outside his Evergreen home in September 2015; our previous coverage has been incorporated into this post. But Williams's punishment in terms of public opinion has been much worse.
As we reported in our original post, a number of murders that took place just prior to Williams's unwanted visit to the spotlight, including the slaying of teenager Jorge Lopez-Ramirez and the Grape Street gun-down of Dwayne Banks, received only modest press attention.
This ursine obsession made the timing of Williams's offense perfect (or, from his perspective, perfectly awful), promptly turning him into a high-profile object of media-stoked ire.
What happened? At approximately 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Williams was awakened at his home, on the 27000 block of Lupine Drive, by a mother bear and her two cubs.
They were rooting around in his trash.
Williams responded by loading his shotgun with two rounds of rubber buckshot — but they didn't do the trick.
At that point, his dog ran outside, and because he cared for his pet's safety, he told the JCSO, he used a lethal round for his third shot, striking a neighbor's house as well as both cubs.
One was killed instantly, while the other was so badly injured that it had to be euthanized.
A photo of the mother bear and the two cubs snapped before the shooting.
7News file photo
In the meantime, the mother bear ran up a nearby tree and stayed there for hours, giving local TV outlets a chance to keep the story going throughout the day. At the conclusion of the saga, CBS4 anthropomorphized the situation with a headline that read "Grieving Mama Bear Finally Leaves Tree After Cubs Shot to Death."
The station's report also captured the unhappiness of neighbors about Williams's actions, and in the days that followed, he was roundly castigated on social media.
Shortly thereafter, the 1st Judicial District DA's Office lowered the boom on Williams, formally charging him with two felonies — illegal discharge of a firearm and aggravated cruelty to animals — as well as six misdemeanors. There were so many counts that the office listed them on a separate document that's on view below.
"If convicted of the felony counts, Mr. Williams could potentially face up to 4.5 years in prison," the DA's office release pointed out, adding, "Each of the misdemeanor counts carries a potential county jail sentence and significant fines."
In the end, Williams received just the aforementioned probationary sentence, plus a $1,000 fine for each cub killed and an order to pony up $188 to pay for a broken window at his neighbor's place. (On top of that, the recreational hunter will not be allowed to possess firearms.) But as he made clear in his recent sentencing hearing, he's already suffered plenty.
He told the judge in the case that after receiving death threats, he and his family relocated to a hotel for a time for fear that animal-rights activists would do to them what he'd done to the cubs. He added that he also had to lay off employees from his business, Williams Tree Co., because of the negative publicity.
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According to him, the incident filled him with "remorse, sadness and regret. I’ve shed more tears over those cubs than anyone can possibly imagine.... I would give anything to take it all back."
Here's the list of the original charges against Williams.