Well, It LOOKED Like a Big Mountain Lion

Call it the case of the cowardly lion-killers.

Santa Paula, Calif., police officers were not justified in fatally shooting a mountain lion cub and the slaying fell outside the department's own rules, according to an outside review.

Police Chief Steve MacKinnon, who asked for the review and presented the results to the City Council on Monday, said officers have been trained in less lethal techniques for dealing with mountain lions in the weeks since the shooting.

Two officers shot and killed the cub that had wandered into a neighborhood on Feb. 17, saying it presented an imminent threat to residents of the Ventura County city, but Larry Nichols, a weapons and tactics specialist with the Burbank Police Department who authored the review, disagreed.

"The actions taken by the officers (were) not appropriate and outside of the department policy," Nichols said. "No person was placed in immediate jeopardy."

Department policy says deadly force may be used in self-defense, to prevent substantial harm to officers or others, or to end the suffering of a badly injured animal.

Police had estimated that the cat weighed 35 to 40 pounds but an examination of the dead cub found it was just 15 pounds, spurring complaints from some locals and animal rights groups that the officers had overreacted.


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It was not immediately clear whether there would be any disciplinary action against the officers in light of the review. State fish and game officials have chosen not to investigate the shooting.

MacKinnon blamed the response on inexperience.

"With the exception of the past five to six weeks, we had no experience handling wild animal calls at all," he said.

MacKinnon said patrol vehicles have been equipped with beanbag shotguns since the shooting.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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