Ohio Officer Embroiled in Controversy after Shooting Deer on Church Lawn

   09.11.15

A police officer in Middleburg Heights, Ohio is in hot water after shooting and killing a wounded deer on the lawn of a local church.

According to Fox 8, Officer Joesph Kaetzel responded to a call from near St. Bartholomew’s Church last month to find a young deer on the property with an injured leg. The deer was being cared for at the time by a woman and her young daughter. Kaetzel ordered the woman and daughter away from the animal for their own safety and then shot the deer.

The woman later filed a complaint with the city and described the officer’s demeanor as “arrogant” and “insensitive.”

Police officers are often called to euthanize sick or injured animals, but the incident in Middleburg caused quite a stir. Debate over whether or not Kaetzel’s actions were justified—given the location and presence of a nearby child—has led Mayor Starr to take a personal interest in the case.

“You’re a young girl, a 10-year-old girl said, ‘Mommy, what happens if I get hurt or if I get injured? Are they going to do the same thing they did to that deer that they did to me?’ And I find that to be heart wrenching.” Starr told Fox 8.

Others supported Kaetzel and argue that he did the right thing to end the animal’s suffering. Supporters said that transporting the deer was unpractical and would have taken time. As shocking as it may be to bystanders, it is not unusual for officers or wildlife wardens to euthanize deer in public spaces, especially if they are considered dangerous. Also in August, officers in Bellingham, Washington killed another injured deer that had been wandering around a residential area. That deer had been injured by a crossbow bolt in its neck.

After an internal investigation, the Middleburg Police Department determined that Kaetzel did nothing wrong by shooting the animal. The office was disciplined, however, for neglecting to identify himself and conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement official. Kaetzel was also criticized by Starr for not wearing his body camera, which the department was equipped with.

You can watch an interview with Starr below:

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