As the Village Turns 

Buffalo and Ford Escorts targeted in melee

click to enlarge Dont laugh, smelly  youre next.
  • Dont laugh, smelly youre next.

On May 9, officers of our village police department were confronted by a group of buffalo that had escaped from a West Side meatpacking plant. Fearing for their own safety and the safety of the villagers they are entrusted to protect, especially if those villagers are at Krispy Kreme, the officers aimed their AR-15 .223-caliber rifles at the 900-pound animals.

With skill honed from hundreds of hours on a firing range, one of the officers steadied his weapon, gently squeezed the trigger and shot out the passenger-side taillight of a 1987 Ford Escort parked in a nearby alley.

Then, just as the great grasslands tribes of Native Americans had done for centuries, the officer used many parts of the fallen beast -- making a warm coat from the carpeting of the automobile and an arrow from the radio antenna.

OK, I made that last part up.

But the officer indeed did shoot the Ford Escort during the Great Buffalo Hunt of '05.

That fact, along with many more that I will try to cram into this column (giving top priority to the funny facts), is contained in a 14-page incident report prepared by our village leaders.

In fairness to the officer who shot the car, experts say it's pretty easy to mistake a Ford Escort for a buffalo. The only real difference is that a buffalo moves faster. And actually can go up a hill.

Getting 'antsy'

The report, prepared by police chief Luis Velez, begins with a description of the animal: "They usually appear peaceful, unconcerned and even lazy, yet they may attack anything, often without warning or apparent reason."

(If you want to experience that sort of thing but are afraid of buffalo, spend any Friday night at our downtown Greyhound bus station. As a sensory bonus, you'll even get a pretty good idea of what buffalo smell like.)

Now, other actual excerpts from the official police report as the buffalo were confronted by police:

"At 12:06, Officer Stinson contacts Officer Ledbetter and advises him that the buffalo are getting 'antsy.'"

The officer knows the five buffalo are getting "antsy" by the way they're pawing the ground, and also by the way they suddenly swarm onto a plateful of sandwiches and ruin a picnic.

"At 12:11 the first buffalo moves away from the herd and starts toward the officers' position. Officer Stinson describes that the buffalo is walking towards him and is gaining momentum into a trot."

Wildlife experts say trotting is the buffalo's first warning and usually is followed by "prancing" and then, just before an all-out charge, "sashaying."

Although it's possible I'm confusing buffalo with Richard Simmons.

"Officer Stinson fires several rounds at the buffalo, which turns and jumps a fence. Sgt. Hutcheson also fires several shots at the buffalo. Officer Babin fires one shot at the buffalo and it goes down."

For his sharp-shooting prowess, Officer Babin later was awarded the police department's Medal of Marksmanship at an emotional ceremony. (The highlight came when Officer Stinson and Sgt. Hutcheson were led onto the stage by their seeing-eye dogs and, working together, ran their hands over Officer Babin before proudly pinning the medal onto his back.)

"At 12:47 two buffalo leave the herd and approach the officers. They are shot and go down, but are still moving. Sgt. Hutcheson continues to fire at the buffalo to make sure they are dead."

Moments later, officers kneel beside the fallen buffalo, take out that day's edition of the Gazette and read the "corrections and clarifications" box that appears on the Metro page. The buffalo do not laugh and therefore are determined to be dead.

Shooting at houses

The report says police fired a total of 83 bullets at the buffalo, which were contained within two small fenced backyards. Many of those bullets actually struck the buffalo.

However, police also shot a house and a garage at 1513 W. Colorado Ave. nine times. One of those bullets "appeared to have struck a band saw in the garage," according to the report. Another fatally wounded a downspout beneath the home's rain gutter.

Police also shot a house at 1517 W. Colorado Ave. with 11 bullets. Eight bullets hit the east side of the home and three bullets hit the north side of the home -- apparently as the house ignored police warnings to halt and tried to make a run for it.

And, of course, someone shot the Ford Escort in the taillight region. Or to use the correct auto industry term for the back of a car, the "buttocks."

(We should be thankful it wasn't one of the buffalo's one-time grassland friends, the Ford Pinto, or we'd still be putting out the fire.)

The report then offered conclusions and suggestions for a better course of action if buffalo again escape from a meatpacking plant. The No. 1 conclusion: Immediately send an officer to Safeway for buns, potato salad and several cases of A-1 Sauce.

No, really, among the actual conclusions was this: "Form a partnership" with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which would "pose outstanding potential benefits in dealing with large animals."

As I understand it, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo plan involves zoo workers rushing to the scene and erecting strong metal bars to keep the buffalo from escaping.

And while stunned onlookers waited for the police to spray the neighborhood with gunfire, they could purchase a $7 cup of Pepsi and a $19 rubber snake from the portable gift shop.

-- richt@csindy.com

Listen to Rich Tosches Thursday mornings on the "Coffey and Alisha Show" on KVUU-FM, 99.9.


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