Dan Williams Learns Killing Cubs Can Unleash More Hate Than Killing People

A photo of Dan Williams from his Facebook page.
A photo of Dan Williams from his Facebook page. Facebook
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.

However, just days before the Williams shooting, multiple television stations offered live broadcasts of a bear capture in Arvada that generated its own tongue-in-cheek hashtag: #BearLivesMatter.

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
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.

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.

Daniel Williams Charges

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts