Sam Carter — the former Boulder police officer set to stand trial next month over the killing of a trophy elk on Mapleton Hill last year — also tried to shoot a trapped deer while on duty in 2008, but was stopped by a federal officer, prosecutors allege in court filings.
Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler ruled this week that prosecutors can introduce the prior incident at trial for the purpose of showing "intent, knowledge and lack of mistake" surrounding Carter's actions in the Mapleton elk case.
"Specifically, the prior act evidence shows that the defendant gained the knowledge that shooting uninjured wildlife was not within the law or the execution of his public duty, as he was previously faced with a similar situation, and was told several times by another officer that he could not kill uninjured wildlife while on duty," Butler wrote in a ruling issued following Monday's hearing.
According to a motion filed by the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, federal police officer Pete Rodriguez reported that he was on duty Aug. 31, 2008, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology — 325 Broadway — when he saw a male deer get caught in a fence while trying to jump over it.
Rodriguez said he sent a call out over the radio for a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer, but "to his surprise... Boulder police Officer Sam Carter arrived."
"Almost immediately," Rodriguez said, Carter reached for his firearm and said he was going to shoot the buck, and made comments about the size of the deer's antlers, according to the motion.
Rodriguez had to tell Carter several times he could not shoot the deer, which was not seriously injured, according to the motion. Carter eventually helped Rodriguez free the buck, which ran off with nothing more than a slight limp.
In the current case, prosecutors allege Carter shot and killed an elk near Mapleton Avenue and Ninth Street while he was on duty Jan. 1, 2013.
Another Boulder police officer, Brent Curnow, who had been scheduled to work, but called in sick that day, arrived in his pickup truck to haul away the carcass.
While Carter told police he shot the elk because he saw it was injured, a necropsy revealed no evidence of a prior injury to the elk, and dispatch records show Carter did not report the shooting.
Text-messaging records also showed conversations about killing the elk between Carter and Curnow almost 20 hours before the shooting.
According to the court documents, Carter's defense attorneys argued there were factual differences between the 2013 and 2008 cases, but Butler disagreed in his ruling.
"Both incidents involved an animal which was not severely injured," Butler wrote. "The fact that one was a deer and the other an elk is of little difference, as both are animals valued for their trophy antlers and meat, which, in this case, are alleged to be motivating factors to Mr. Carter."
Eight-day trial set
Carter — who is free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond — was not present at Monday's hearing.
Marc Colin, Carter's attorney, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Carter is scheduled for an eight-day trial beginning May 27. He is charged with counts of tampering with physical evidence, a Class 6 felony, one count of forgery, a Class 5 felony, and one count of attempting to influence a public official, a Class 4 felony.
He also is facing misdemeanor counts of first-degree official misconduct, illegal possession of a trophy elk with a Samson Law surcharge, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, unlawfully taking of a big game animal out of season, and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife.
Curnow pleaded guilty to one felony charge and all four misdemeanors in his case and was sentenced by Butler to one year of probation and 60 days of house arrest in September.
Curnow also received a two-year deferred sentence for the felony charge, tampering with evidence.