More than 100 people gathered outside Lethbridge police headquarters on Sunday afternoon to protest after a video surfaced last week showing an officer allegedly using a truck to euthanize a deer.
In the video, a police truck can be seen repeatedly running over a wounded deer on a city street.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has stated it’s investigating the circumstances surrounding the Lethbridge police officer’s response to a report of an injured animal in distress on Jan. 5.
“The police officer responded and killed the deer in an incident that was partially recorded by a bystander on cellphone video,” ASIRT stated in a news release.
National group Animal Justice said ASIRT is empowered to lay criminal animal-cruelty charges against police officers, and wants to see a full investigation.
About 130 people joined the rally Sunday to echo those sentiments.
After viewing the video, Heather Anderson said she believes the officer should be investigated for animal cruelty.
“There’s no doubt about it,” she said. “It gave me, personally, nightmares.
“I think he should be charged with animal cruelty and I think he should no longer be a police officer.”
An online petition calling for the officer involved to be fired had drawn nearly 70,000 signatures as of Sunday.
Anderson said the group is also planning to deliver a written petition to Lethbridge police on Monday requesting that the officer be permanently removed from the line of duty.
ASIRT officials said while the video that went public is evidence, it captures “only a portion of the incident.”
“A full, fair and objective investigation must include additional investigative steps to ensure admissible evidence as to what occurred prior to the commencement of the video, the circumstances surrounding the taking of the video and chain of custody, the identification and interview of available witnesses, relevant communications and training, and securing any other evidence that may be relevant to the event,” the oversight body stated.
As part of its investigation, it will examine a police officer’s powers in situations such as this one, and will consider relevant provisions within the Criminal Code, the Animal Protection Act and the Wildlife Act. ASIRT has also been in contact with Fish and Wildlife Enforcement and the Alberta SPCA.
Lethbridge police have asked the public to “exercise patience” to allow ASIRT’s investigation to progress, and said the service takes the matter “very seriously.”
—With files from Yolande Cole
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