Sam Carter arrest warrant affidavit

One of the Boulder police officers arrested on felony charges in connection with the shooting of an elk in Mapleton Hill earlier this month told other officers he planned to kill the elk during a shift briefing nearly a week before the killing, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Boulder police officers Sam Carter, 35, and Brent Curnow, 38, face charges of forgery, tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public official -- all felonies -- as well as unlawful taking of a trophy elk, conspiracy, a Samson surcharge, killing an elk out of season, unlawful use of an electronic device to unlawfully take wildlife and first degree official misconduct -- all misdemeanors.

Samuel J. Carter
Samuel J. Carter (Boulder County Sheriff's Office)

Investigators believe Carter shot the elk and Curnow took it home to butcher it. The arrest warrant affidavit details text messages the two officers exchanged to plan and carry out the killing the night of Jan. 1. But the arrest warrant affidavit also says that Carter discussed wanting to kill the elk in front of other officers at a work meeting almost a week beforehand.

"During the interviews with Carter's fellow shift officers, which were done separately for each officer, several of the officers reported independently that in a shift briefing meeting on 12/26/12 Officer Carter mentioned that he was planning on killing the elk," the arrest warrant affidavit said.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said Saturday he had not spoken with the other officers at the shift meeting, but he has not heard any indication from criminal investigators that other officers were involved in a conspiracy.

"If they said something very specific," Beckner said, referring to what would raise concerns about other officers covering for Carter and Curnow. "Cops say a lot of things and joke around about a lot of things because it's a stressful job, and you could make all sorts of hay about it if you wanted to. If he said something very specific, if we find that out in the internal investigation, we'll deal with it."

Brent R. Curnow
Brent R. Curnow (Boulder County Sheriff's Office)

Beckner placed the officers on paid administrative leave shortly after learning of the shooting, which was not reported to shift supervisors or dispatchers, as officers typically would, and that was changed to unpaid leave when the officers were arrested Friday.

While an internal investigation is still underway, Beckner said the actions described in the arrest affidavit would typically result in termination.

Rita Anderson, policy and investigations specialist for In Defense of Animals, said, "If they took him seriously, they had an obligation to report it. They certainly should have reported it. They had an obligation if they thought he was serious. It depends on if he said it jokingly."

Anderson, a Boulder resident, added, "I would definitely have reported it. I don't want to lay blame on those officers, but I would have reported it. It's sort of a sick thing to joke about in my book, but the context in which he said it is certainly important."

Boulder resident JoOnna Silberman, who lives at 3rd and Spruce streets, and often saw the elk near her front door in the morning, was also disturbed by the latest report.

"I absolutely think it should affect the prosecution," said Silberman. "...As this goes on, it gets more absolutely flabbergasting to me."

Silberman added, "It saddens me if they thought it was a joke, but they don't take animals as seriously. If he had said he was going to a kill a woman on the corner they would have taken it seriously. Maybe if it had been a person, but the fact that the word elk was in there instead of the word person, that changes things.

"Why would you think that was a joke? If I had heard that it would have concerned me greatly."

Earlier this month, Beckner said he did not think the officers' actions, as well as several other incidents in the last 18 months in which officers and former officers were charged with serious crimes, reflected on the department's culture. He asked the public to judge the department on how it handles such cases when they arise and said the department was fully cooperating with the investigation.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said investigators are still working on the case and "looking at everything." If additional misconduct comes to light, there could be more charges filed.

The City Council has asked Garnett to brief the council on Tuesday about the case. According to an affidavit, Carter told police the day after the shooting that he encountered an elk while on patrol near Mapleton Avenue and Ninth Street late Jan. 1 that he said was injured and needed to be put down.

Carter then allegedly killed the animal with a shotgun, and Curnow -- who was off-duty -- came to pick up the carcass with the help of an on-duty Boulder County sheriff's deputy, identified as Jeff George.

George does not face any charges in the incident at this time. During the investigation, no neighbors who saw the elk in the hours leading up to the shooting noticed it was injured, and they also said it never appeared to be aggressive.

In addition, a necropsy of the elk performed at Colorado State University found no signs of any significant trauma, and investigators never found evidence of a car strike at the scene.

Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness contributed to this report

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@dailycamera.com.