Sean Sneeton was picking up a colleague for work Friday morning when he turned around to walk back to his car and saw the escaped steer trotting down Druid Hill Avenue toward him.
He tried to take a picture, and when the animal started toward him, he got back in his car and called 911. Sneeton was among nearly a dozen witnesses who struggled to explain the odd situation to police dispatchers in tapes of the calls released to the media Thursday night.
"I'm calling to report that a bull, a full-sized bull, is running out in the street in the 2500 block of Retreat St.," one man said.
"You're saying an animal? B-U-L-L? Is that what you're saying?" a dispatcher responded.
"Yeah, a real B-U-L-L," he said.
Police cornered the animal, which had escaped from a West Baltimore slaughterhouse, in Mid-Town Belvedere and shot it less than an hour after it was first spotted, around 10:15 a.m. The 911 calls, like the jokes and parody Twitter accounts that quickly followed the ludicrous news of a steer strolling a busy city street, are entertaining, but they show the safety concerns dispatchers and witnesses had as police tried to track it down.
"It actually just almost hit my car," Sneeton said. "It tried to charge me."
"Oh my god," the dispatcher said.
"I got out of my car and tried to take a picture, because he was running toward me," he said. "Then he started coming at me with his head. He tried to take the door off."
"Did he hit your car?" the dispatcher asked.
"No, no, he missed it," Sneeton said.
After taking down location and contact information, incredulous dispatchers asked callers what the steer was doing.
"It's chasing these guys," one said.
"It's just running around rampant," another replied.
A third was nervous for the safety of minors in the neighborhood: "I don't want these kids to get run over," she said.
One woman suggested it might have escaped from the Maryland Zoo.
The dispatchers were caught as off-guard by the situation as the callers.
"There's a cow loose — " one caller started to say.
"There's a what?" the dispatcher interrupted.
After the woman told her what happened, the dispatcher said she'd send a unit.
"They'd better hurry up," the woman said.
Police are investigating whether officers needed to shoot the animal, and whether, as witnesses claimed, they endangered people nearby by shooting the animal from a moving vehicle.