Bear Tasered by police officers dies
August 15, 2007
Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel
A black bear stunned twice with Tasers by Orlando police died Tuesday evening, but reports show it would still be alive if humans had not been feeding the wild animal.
Residents of the Tivoli Woods neighborhood called 911 about 8 p.m. when the bear returned there searching for food for at least the third time in a week.
Unidentified residents had been feeding the animal in defiance of state Fish and Wildlife guidelines, so the bear no longer feared human contact, according to police reports.
"It's just a bummer all the way around for us," police Sgt. Barbara Jones said today of the fatal confrontation. "Everything the Fish and Wildlife people was telling us to do, didn't work."
Residents in the 4700 block of Walnut Ridge Drive complicated efforts to shoo away the bear by refusing police requests to go inside their homes.
"We also observed dozens of citizens standing on their front lawns taking pictures of the animal," wrote Officer Frank Sikos of broadcasting pleas over his patrol car's public address system to avoid the bear. "Many of the residents did not comply."
For 45 minutes, police followed the bear blaring sirens and flashing emergency lights as it wandered house to house along Walnut Ridge Drive, Oak Crest Road, Tarflower Lane and Spindletree Lane.
When the bear returned to Walnut Ridge Drive, it walked into an open garage where residents Jennielyn Rodrigues, Sovet Navarez, William Hodge and Gary Navarez were sitting at a table."
All four began screaming as the bear charged at them," the report states. "Hodge threw a chair at the bear as (they) attempted to enter their home."
One of the police officers got ready to use his shotgun to shoot the bear but feared hitting the people. The bear wandered outside again, where police officers tried to encourage it to escape harm by heading into nearby woods."
The bear did not comply and instead turned toward us," Sikos wrote. "The bear was more interested in entering the garbage cans around the homes than avoiding the officers on the scene."
The animal came within a car length of Sikos and took two more strides despite his efforts to scare it away.
"I did not want to use deadly force on the animal," he wrote. "I deployed my department-issued Taser, striking the bear in the torso."
The 50,000 volts of electricity slowed the bear long enough for officers to lasso one leg and its neck with animal-catch poles. That didn't do much other than upset it.
"The bear became agitated and we moved from yard to yard as the bear tired. However, the bear had spurts of energy," Sikos wrote of being pulled around the neighborhood.
Another officer zapped the animal a second time with a Taser and a second leg was harnessed with a catch pole, according to reports.
"We again moved from yard to yard as the bear wrestled with us," Sikos wrote. "We then observed the bear appeared to have passed out. A short time later, we determined the animal had passed away."
Jones said the officers had no choice.
"We couldn't leave until the people went inside and the bear went into the woods. As long as the people remained there we had to treat the bear as a threat," she said. "Everybody loves animals and they're cute, but they're not cute if they maul somebody."
The cause of death will be determined after a necropsy ordered by state Fish and Wildlife.