I am a hobby photographer and an eyewitness to a man shooting across a forest road at wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on May 2, 2019. At the scene of the shooting, I called 911 and a Navajo County Sheriff’s Deputy responded. Another person called the U.S. Forest Service but nobody from that agency responded to the scene.
In my view, the handling of my complaint about this shooting has been treated with disregard from the moment the deputy arrived on scene. The man shooting a long gun was allowed to leave the scene after he claimed to be shooting at a tree stump in a southbound direction from in front of his truck. Only after he was allowed to leave the scene did the deputy gather information from me which clearly contradicted the man’s story. I advised the deputy that I had many photos and videos that would corroborate my eyewitness testimony, which were, in fact, later turned over to NCSO on a thumbdrive. My photos and videos are compelling evidence that support my account of the incident. The first photo taken immediately after the shooting ended clearly shows the man with rifle in hand, ear protection in his ears and body facing in my direction, where he had been aiming at the wild horses on the top of a waterhole to my right just moments before. Yet the NCSO Incident Report issued on May 10, 2019, shows no indication that I turned over those photos and videos as evidence and it indicates the investigation is closed.
In light of the recent killings of wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests where 11 wild horses have been confirmed by the USFS to have been shot dead and considering that my life had been in grave danger during this shooting incident, I find it irresponsible that NCSO handled their investigation in the disinterested manner that they did, quickly closing out the investigation and citing “no criminal intent” in media interviews. During one media interview, Sheriff David Clouse had the audacity to say, “And I don’t think from her vantage point where she was down in that water tank that she could tell exactly which direction he was shooting at,” referring to me. That’s a very misleading statement as he ought to have known from my statements, photos and videos, that “down in that water tank” was not my position when I saw the man shooting at the wild horses.
I also find it very peculiar that the USFS has never contacted me to discuss my eyewitness account, especially since I provided them (as well as NCSO) a written statement of my account on the day after the incident.
All of these circumstances really leave me wondering, what will it take for law enforcement to treat a wild horse shooting incident seriously?