Killing Wild Animals with Impunity

I had intended to write about something else this week, but my plans were derailed by a story in this morning’s Washington Post entitled, in the hard copy at B-4, No charges to be filed in killing of protected birds and called, in the online version, Investigation into shootings of protected birds near Baltimore has stalled.  For purposes of this post, I am going to accept as true everything in the Post’s report. The opinions below are based on my inferences from the stated facts.

It is particularly disturbing to see a story involving the wanton slaughter of protected animals in the United States, just miles from the nation’s capitol, with, it appears, the perpetrators getting away clean. The story is doubly disturbing in that one of the men involved was a Maryland police officer.

The gist of the story is captured in these excerpts:

… a shotgun was fired several times from a boat [on the Patapsco River near Baltimore], killing several birds, including a federally protected gull and a double-crested cormorant.

The shots

were fired near the Spirit of Baltimore dinner cruise ship, which was taking passengers on a tour

thus putting additional lives in danger.

… an observer aboard a city helicopter saw someone on the boat throw a long gun into the water.

Divers recovered the weapon. Police said they found 210 rounds of shotgun ammunition, 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition, 100 rounds of 5.7mm ammunition and 12 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition on the boat. The speech of all three occupants of the boat was slurred, and empty beer cans were in the craft, police said.

If anything is clear, it is that these men intended to do some serious damage to something. What happened to the weapons that would have used the non-shotgun ammunition? And much of the ammunition cannot be justified as related to any form of “hunting.” Yet, according to the report,

authorities are unable to conclude which of the three occupants of the boat was responsible

The assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County was quoted saying “At this point, the investigation is at a standstill.”

How is that possible? The shooting and attempt at concealment was observed. And, if that’s not enough, the story states that the men’s boat led police on a chase from Key Bridge in Maryland to a creek in Baltimore County where the men were apprehended. They thus attempted to evade capture for a crime in which each of them had to be either the direct perpetrator or an accessory before or after the fact. And, if that’s not enough, the story says that “the officer’s arrest powers have been restored.”

I am well acquainted with the concept of innocence until proven guilty and the principle that one cannot be compelled to testify against oneself. Assuming each of the men asserted their full rights not to be forced to answer who did the shooting and why they were carrying enough ammunition to start a small war, it is clear, isn’t it, that a police officer was present, did little or nothing to stop the offense and has now refused to answer questions about the incident and his role in it. And, nonetheless, his weapon is returned and he is authorized to make arrests????

Baltimore’s fraught history of police-community relations is well known in these parts and likely around the country. What message does this story send? A police officer apparently is free to participate in, or at least witness and not interfere with, the commission of a serious offense, then refuse to respond to police questions and just walk away with full restoration of law enforcement powers?

If there is more to this story that would overcome the inferences drawn, I am open to hearing it. Something doesn’t parse here and there should be an in-depth investigation by outside authorities as to what is going on. Just my opinion, of course, but this stinks to high heaven.


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