Almost 200 people gathered on Mapleton Hill, Colo. Saturday night for a candlelight vigil to honor a fallen figure that many considered a "guardian" and "part of the neighborhood." Emotions ran a sorrowful gauntlet among those in attendance.
"I know a lot of us have had a lot of anger, a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty," said Jim Riemersma, vigil organizer.
This misguided outpouring of sympathy came about after an on-duty Boulder police officer shot and killed an elk last week. Yes, an elk. You read correctly.
This animal was seen in town for the past few weeks. Another officer assisted in loading the dead elk into a truck so it could be processed for meat.
Both officers are currently on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation said to have begun Monday. At this time, there are conflicting reports on whether the animal behaved aggressively toward humans and what happened at the time of the shooting.
What is known is that at least 200 people -- and perhaps more -- saw the shooting as a murder.
"To murder an animal who feels like he's part of the neighborhood is despicable," said Esther Parson.