Criticisms few, suggestions many in city buffalo report

       A recently released Colorado Springs city manager's report on the Police Department's Westside buffalo shootings May 9 includes no condemnation of police or the slaughterhouse on 21st Street from which the five animals escaped.
       The report, provided to City Manager Lorne Kramer by Police Chief Luis Velez, identifies future ways such incidents can be handled and stipulates that “G&C Packing (the slaughterhouse) must follow through and revise their yard plan to preclude these types of events from happening in the future.”
       G&C has already begun planning a secondary enclosure for that purpose, according to owner Frank Grindinger. However, the report notes, “It would be unrealistic to believe that any future escapes will be completely eliminated.”
       Grindinger has offered “to participate in any planning or training that (the Police) Department intends to develop in response to similar incidents in the future,” the report adds.
       No criminal charges or fines are suggested against G&C or the trucking company that is blamed for having failed to correctly unload a shipment of buffalo to G&C on May 9. However, the City Attorney's Office “is reviewing several state statutes and municipal ordinances including nuisance violations and will render an opinion on possible legal sanctions in the near future,” according to the report.
       The five bison made their way to a front yard in the 1500 block of Colorado Avenue. Police waited, hopeful that G&C could successfully load the animals onto a truck, but first one, then a second, then a third and fourth together, charged them, the report states. The fifth remained placid, but was shot “as it is believed that it would be impossible to herd that animal anywhere.”
       A police committee plans a separate, internal “critical incident review” of the incident, in response to citizen concerns about possible recklessness in the gunfire. “The committee will document its findings and forward a written report to the chief of police,” the report states.
       Sue Blumberg of the City Manager's Office said the report is not scheduled for discussion at a City Council meeting because all that council directed of Kramer was to investigate the incident, and “this closes the issue as to what was required of the city manager.” However, she noted that council members could bring up the issue themselves at a future meeting.
       The report includes details about the shots that were fired. The three police officers at the scene cumulatively fired 83 rounds, each of them using an AR-15 gun using a .223 caliber bullet, the report states. Another six shots were fired by a G&C employee, who used his larger .357 rifle to help finish off the buffaloes after they were down.
       Initial police estimates had put the shots-fired number at 120, while one neighbor guessed more than 300.
       The report states that the .223 caliber “is a much smaller round than what is typically recommended for hunting and killing a large animal.” However, larger-caliber rifles “would have posed an even greater threat to humans given our urban environment.”
       The report details the bullets striking private property during the shooting:
       Two bullets hit the residence at 1513 W. Colorado Ave.
       Seven hit that house's garage (one of them richocheting across the alley and into a storage shed at 1514 ½ W. Cucharras St.).
       Eleven hit the residence at 1517 W. Colorado Ave.
       One hit a parked car just west of 1517.
       The police report rejects an allegation from residents of 1519 that a bullet hit their building during the gunfire. Investigators reportedly “examined the damage and determined that it was old and could not have been caused by a .223 round being fired from in front of 1513 W. Colorado Ave.”
       The city's Risk Management Office will cover the costs to repair the bullet holes. “The city will then ask for repayment of those costs from the insurance company of the truck carrier or G&C Packing Company,” the report states.
       This was the second time buffaloes have gotten loose from G&C in three years, with similar results in the December 2003 incident. Police plan to create a training video “on handling similar situations using several different resources, including the Department of Wildlife (and) Grindinger,” the report states. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo will also be consulted “since they have the capability to deliver tranquilizers to large animals. They have agreed to be an on-call resource for the CSPD,” the report states.

Westside Pioneer article