Mountain lion killed: Officers shoot feline at carwash

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Update: Mountain Lion Shot, Killed At El Paso Car Wash

Lauren Rozyla/KFOX14 News Reporter

Posted: 10:01 am MDT May 10, 2011Updated: 10:12 pm MDT May 10, 2011

EL PASO, Texas — A female mountain lion that was spotted in the Central El Paso area Tuesday morning was shot and killed by police at the H&H Car Wash.People in the downtown area spotted a large wild cat roaming around the area of Stanton and Missouri around 8:30 a.m.Officials were able to shoot the animal with a tranquilizer gun at the State Building on Missouri Street, but then it ran toward East Yandell Drive. Police at the scene told KFOX-14 that St. Clement’s school grounds was placed on lock down after the mountain lion ran through the school yard.”The lion actually ran right past me,” said Nick Cobos, the headmaster at St. Clement’s. “There were some children in the pavilion area and they reacted more to the policeman because the mountain lion went by so fast.”The estimated 125-pound animal then jumped over a nearby pedestrian, knocking him down.The fully grown, yellow-haired mountain lion, then arrived at the car wash at 701 E. Yandell Drive where she was trapped and shot a second time by a tranquilizer gun, which caused her to act sluggish. Police said the lion then jumped up on a high landing located inside the car wash. Police told KFOX-14 that officers believed the lion could have escaped through a small opening near the roof, and therefore were forced to shoot and kill the cat.

Video Timeline Shows Events Leading Up To Mountain Lion Being Shot, Killed “We could, could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ all day long,” said Mike Baranyay, a spokesperson for the El Paso Police Department. “But we would have to a ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ situation where a child or a citizen could have been injured in the interest of an animal.”A state veterinarian at the scene who was upset at police officers argued with them after the mountain lion was killed. KFOX-14 cameras spotted the veternarian having to be led away from the scene by authorities.Baranyay said he believed the cat could have entered the Central El Paso area to look for water, as the area has been dealing with drought conditions for several days.At this time, the El Paso Police Department’s Shooting Review Team is conducting an investigation into this incident. H&H Car Wash remained closed for the remainder of the day.A KFOX14 photojournalist was at the scene when it all happened. Check back on for the entire video to be posted.

See video at link:

A female mountain lion roaming Downtown El Paso was shot and killed Tuesday morning, 30 seconds after being hit with a second tranquilizer dart that hadn’t yet taken effect, officials said.

The shooting of the cat was called into question by a veterinarian who was taped by television news crews at the scene saying “Ugh, you idiot” and there’s “no need for this” after the lion had been shot twice.

The lion was shot about 10:30 a.m. after it jumped onto an 8-foot-high brick wall at H&H Car Wash, where it had been trapped by employees and authorities.

The lion, according to city police reports, was first spotted about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Stanton and Missouri. Union Pacific railroad employees also saw the lion at the railroad yard at the intersection of Campbell and Franklin.

The 125-pound lion then walked across Campbell street into the trash bin area of the state office building on Franklin Drive before running across Kansas Street into the state parking garage. Railroad police officers as well as state employees closed the gates to the parking lot, hoping to trap it in there.

A tranquilizer dart fired by Texas Department of Health Services veterinarian Ken Waldrup found its mark, but the cat escaped. It leapt from the second story of the parking garage and ran several blocks to the Church of St. Clement on North Campbell Street.

“The more an animal is stimulated, the longer it takes for the drug to work,” Waldrup said. “It’s unfortunate she jumped out of the parking garage, but she was just being a cougar. She had been shot with a dart and was trying to get away.”

The mountain lion made its way through the church property and moved through the breezeway of the parish school while several children and teachers were holding recess on the playground.

“I stepped out and the mountain lion ran right past me,” St. Clement Parish School Headmaster Nick Cobos said. “That mountain lion was scared. It just ran past the campus and did not stop. Nobody had time to scatter or react, it was so fast.”

Cobos immediately initiated a lockdown of the school. Teachers and students hurried from the playground, rushing to get indoors and to their classrooms.

St. Clement sixth-grader Lexi Borrego said she was outside as the class conducted a science experiment when she saw an officer run by carrying a weapon and yelling at the students to get down on the ground.

“At first I thought the school was being robbed, then I thought it was a drill. Then the teacher told us to get in the building. We did and quickly went into another classroom. When I was going inside, I saw a large animal,” Lexi said. “A while later, another teacher announced that the school was in lockdown. It was really scary.”

The mountain lion leapt over the school’s fence and ran into the H&H Car Wash, where employees and authorities rushed to pull down the business’s chain walls and contain the cat.

It roamed the enclosed carwash for several minutes, even lying down. Waldrup fired a second tranquilizer dart, striking the mountain lion. It then jumped to the top of the wall on the north side of the carwash. and before it could escape again, an El Paso police officer and an officer with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission standing directly in front of the cat fired one shot each, killing the mountain lion and sending it tumbling off the wall.

Hearing the gunshots, Waldrup rushed over to the opposite side of the carwash. As he approached the officers, he was visibly upset. In video taken by KTSM, Waldrup could be heard saying “Ugh, you idiot,” and there’s “no need for this.”

Afterward, Waldrup said he was disappointed that the second dose of tranquilizer didn’t even have time to take effect before the lion was shot.

“The second dart didn’t really have a chance,” Waldrup said. “She died less than 30 seconds after the second dart hit.”

In all, the chase lasted nearly two hours, and Mike Baranyay, spokesman for the El Paso Police Department, said that the shooting is being investigated by the Police Department’s Shooting Review Team. Officials of TABC could not be reached for comment.

Josie Karam, a wildlife rehabilitator who works with Chihuahuan Desert Wildlife Rescue, said residents can expect more animals venturing from the Franklin Mountains into urban El Paso.

February’s hard freeze and months of drought since are pushing animals to seek resources beyond their natural habitats, Karam said. Also, animals are often attracted to populated areas by water and food bowls left outdoors for pets.

“People need to be patient with the animals that are coming instead of trying to kill them; they need to relocate them,” Karam said. “In this case with the mountain lion, they probably had to kill it because they couldn’t capture it or it posed a danger to humans.”

John Hall may be reached at; 546-6371.


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