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Baltimore police say officer justified shooting out of car at steer

Baltimore police have cleared an officer who leaned out of his patrol car in a populated neighborhood and fired multiple shots at a steer that had been running amok after escaping a slaughterhouse.

The internal investigation into the June 13 shooting of the dark brown steer found the officer "was concerned with public safety, backdrop and utilized proper firearms control" when he used his service weapon to put down the animal in the Mid-Town Belvedere neighborhood.

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The report, released this month, said a witness and other officers told the Force Investigation Team that the first block of E. Preston St. where the shooting occurred was "not heavily populated" but that the 780-pound steer was headed toward a crowd and needed to be stopped.

The conclusion differs from what a witness told The Baltimore Sun on the day of the shooting. Ellie Beziat said the animal was trotting 15 feet from her and her boyfriend when she saw an officer lean out of a moving cruiser and fire shots at the animal's head. She said there were about 10 other pedestrians in the street.

It is not known which witness police interviewed. The report, which was released on the department's website, does not name the person or the officer who shot from his car but refers to them as "Subject A" and "Officer A."

Police did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

The strange incident, which captivated much of the city and became a topic of social media conversation, began at 10:15 a.m. when officers responded to the 1200 block of W. North Ave. after a slaughterhouse called 911.

A foreman at the Ruppersberger and Son's Meat Wholesaler in the 2600 block of Pennsylvania Ave. in Penn North reported that one of its steers had jumped over a railing and broken through two fenced-in areas, police said. It escaped onto Woodbrook Avenue before making its way to the bustling 1200 block of W. North Avenue, where a number of 911 calls began flooding into police.

Responding officers tried to corral the steer in a parking lot and a parking garage, but it got away each time.

A sergeant who was supervising police response told officers on the street that slaughterhouse employees had advised him "the only way to drop the bull is to hit it in the head," according to the police investigation.

As the steer ran down the first block of E. Preston St., not far from a Starbucks frequented by downtown workers and University of Baltimore students, "Officer A" leaned over to the passenger side of his patrol car, pointed his handgun out the window and fired twice, hitting the animal, police said.

The bullets didn't stop the steer, which continued down the block, and police said the officer fired two more shots.

The witness told investigators that "no one was in danger" and that there were no pedestrians in the officer's line of fire when he fired his gun. The report does not say whether the car was moving.

The officer told police that he then drove alongside the steer until it stopped. Then he stopped his patrol car about a foot from the steer, watched it move toward pedestrians and traffic and fired, hitting the animal in the torso and killing it.

Use-of-Force Review Board members within the department believed the officer used proper firearms control since he shot it twice and reassessed the situation before firing again. They said he recognized "an imminent threat to pedestrians and vehicle traffic" and made the right call.

As for the dead steer, the report said, Valley Proteins Inc., a rendering plant, removed it and hauled it away.

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