Back in January 2013, we told you about the arrest of two Boulder police officers, Samuel Carter and Brent Curnow, on charges related to the shooting and killing of Big Boy, an elk beloved by members of the Mapleton neighborhood. Authorities suspected they bagged the elk as a trophy, then lied about it.
Curnow took a plea deal in the case, but Carter went all the way to trial -- and he has now been found guilty of multiple counts. We've got photos, video, the original arrest report and details of the verdict below.
Samuel Carter's booking photo.
As we reported, an officer later identified as Carter shot and killed a bull elk in the area of Ninth Avenue and Mapleton Street after 11 p.m. on January 1 of last year. According to the initial Boulder Police news release, Carter was on routine patrol when he saw the elk, which he says appeared to be injured. Some of the elk's antlers had been broken off and it was limping, police said.
"In the officer's judgment, the animal needed to be humanely put down," read the statement. The officer fired one shot from a shotgun, killing the elk, which was in a residential yard. That animal was then "taken home to be processed for meat by another officer [Curnow], who was off-duty at the time."
It didn't take long for this story to unravel. For one thing, neither officer had immediately reported the incident. This news was followed by an image of Carter happily posing with the dead animal, as seen in this Boulder Daily Camera screen capture.
Next came word that Curnow runs his own taxidermy business -- a revelation that further fueled the anger of residents upset by what had happened and doubtful that the elk had been injured.
The Boulder District Attorney's Office soon launched an investigation to determine if criminal charges against Carter and Curnow were warranted -- and prosecutors ultimately determined that they were. The officers were booked on a mix of felony charges (including forgery, tampering with physical evidence and attempting to influence a public official) and misdemeanors (such as killing an elk out of season and unlawful taking of a trophy elk).
Much of the evidence accumulated against the officers is cataloged in the arrest affidavit issued in Carter's name. Here's one roster of factoids that seem to contradict his earlier claims:
• Carter was on duty that night and had admitted upon questioning that he had shot the elk.
• Carter had not told his sergeant about concerns with an injured or aggressive elk.
• Carter did not contact dispatch when he went to the corner of 9th and Mapleton, where the elk was located, and never mentioned the elk to dispatch.
• Carter did not notify either his supervisor or dispatch that he was about to discharge a firearm, or had just discharged a firearm to kill the elk. He never mentioned the shot or having killed a trophy elk during the rest of his shift.
• Carter spent a prolonged period of time at 9th and Mapleton while loading the elk in Curnow's truck without checking in with dispatch.
• Carter had never attempted to contact CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) on call or local district wildlife managers, officers with biological training to access injuries and aggressive behavior in wildlife, and with tools and capabilities to tranquilize and move large ungulates.
• Carter never asked dispatch or his supervisor to contact the City contracted knacker service to remove the animal, nor did he make any attempt to contact CPW to garner advice about disposition of an elk with trophy antlers.
• After clearing the scene Carter contacted his supervisor by phone and requested to go home sick. During this conversation killing of the elk was never mentioned.
Even more damning were text messages between Carter, Curnow and a third law enforcer, beginning shortly after midnight on New Year's Day.
A screen capture from the website linked to Officer Curnow's taxidermy business.
Here are the elk-related exchanges between various alleged participants, with the first taking place during the first hours of 2013.
• 2:56 a.m. January 1, Carter to Curnow: "Found wapiti you up."
• 3:55 a.m., Curnow to Carter: "Yep."
• 4:14 a.m. Carter to Curnow: "Should I go Hunting."
• 5:56 a.m., Carter to Boulder County Sheriff Deputy Jeff George, who is said to have helped pick up the elk's carcass: "Elk 9/Mapleton."
• 6:14 a.m., George to Carter: "Did you shoot him"
• 10:03 a.m., Carter to George: "Nope."
• 2:45 p.m., Curnow to Carter: "You should have killed it."
• 7:44 p.m., Carter to Curnow: "Oh he's dead tonight. His right side is broke off at the main beam. And he looks a little smaller. He may not be wapiti but he's gonna die."
• 10:43 p.m., Carter to George: "9Mapleton."
• 10:45 p.m., George to Carter: "On my way."
• 11:44 p.m., Carter to Curnow: "Found him."
• 11:44 p.m., Curnow to Carter: "Get him."
• 11:45 p.m. Carter to Curnow: "Too many people right now. Start heading this way. 9/Mapleton."
• 11:54 p.m., Curnow to Carter: "You gonna be able to help butcher it? Or are you gonna go home sick?"
• 11:54 p.m., Carter to Curnow: "I can butcher."
• 11:55 p.m. "K. When u think you can wack it?"
• 11:58 p.m., Carter to Curnow: "Elk down."
• 12:36 a.m. January 2, Curnow to Carter: "If we could find the broken part of the antler I could fix it for a mount."
The conclusion of the affidavit based on these texts and other information: "It is apparent that Carter was not acting within the scope of his authority as a Colorado Peace Officer to euthanize a morbidly sick or injured animal."
In the wake of these revelations, Carter and Curnow resigned, prompting the following statement from Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner: "The Boulder Police Department does not tolerate this kind of behavior. Police officers and other members of this department will be held accountable for their actions and behavior, and we want the community to know how seriously we take this breach of trust."
Brent Curnow's mug shot.
Curnow subsequently offered a plea in the case, reportedly receiving sixty days of home detention as punishment. He also agreed to testify in Carter's trial and did so as documented in the Daily Camera, which provided extensive, day-by-day coverage of the court proceedings.
Also speaking up was Deputy Jeff George, who testified that Carter had lied to him by saying the elk had been injured. As documented in another Daily Camera report, George also questioned the spot from which Carter took his fatal shot, suggesting that he had paid little mind to the houses along the line of fire.
Additional testimony recounted a 2008 incident during which Carter and another law enforcer had come upon an elk stuck in a fence. Carter's first response was to pull out a gun, but the officer with him said, "We're not going to shoot no deer tonight."
Carter's defense attorneys argued Big Boy really was hurt and the shooting had aimed to protect residents. But the jury didn't buy it. As the Daily Camera points out, he was convicted on nine counts: four felonies (attempting to influence a public official, forgery and two tampering-with-evidence charges) and five misdemeanors (first-degree official misconduct, illegal possession of a trophy elk, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of a trophy elk, unlawful taking of a big game animal out of season and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife).
At this point, Carter's sentence is pending, so it's unknown if he'll end up serving jail time as a result of the decision. Meanwhile, the Justice for Big Boy the Boulder Elk Facebook page offers this final word on the case: "Sad all around, RIP big boy."
Look below to a video from a candlelight vigil held for the elk, a 7News report about the verdict and the aforementioned arrest affidavit.
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