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A cell phone video that started out cute and funny suddenly turned violent and sad when a sheriff’s deputy in Eldersburg, Maryland shot and killed a groundhog that was blocking traffic on Liberty Road in Eldersburg.
The video was first posted to Facebook on May 6 by Justyna Olkowska, the woman who captured the footage. As you can see, the deputy first tries to scare the groundhog out of the road, but when the animal comes towards him he drops to one knee and fires his gun. The groundhog survives the first shot, so the deputy again drops to one knee and fires a second time.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s department issued a statement in which they say the animal was acting oddly and might have been sick or injured.
“He [the deputy] realized that it was not responding as expected for an animal that was not being cornered or trapped,” the department said. “Believing the groundhog to be either sick or injured, the deputy then put the animal down for the public’s safety.”
Karen Baker, executive director of the Carroll County Humane Society, agreed that it was “unusual behavior.”
“Under normal circumstances, an animal will take its easiest route of escape when it’s threatened or frightened,” Baker told local news station WBAL “Normally, an animal will run from humans, especially if you’re making yourself large, you’re stomping your feet, you’re loud.”
Baker said the humane society will not be testing the animal for any diseases since it didn’t come in contact with humans or domestic animals.
The reactions on Twitter were overwhelmingly negative, with most people feeling the situation could have been handled far better.
The Carroll County Sheriff Dept should be absolutely ashamed. If this officer was afraid enough of a groundhog to discharge his weapon then he shouldn't be an officer. Groundhogs are notoriously fragile animals. https://t.co/FC84OD7R02— larry (@theREALLarbear) May 8, 2018
A cop and a groundhog. Remind me, which one is supposed to afraid of its own shadow again?— Legit Lefty (@slayermode83) May 8, 2018
We have an entire holiday that involves someone safely picking up and moving a groundhog https://t.co/J74dtfWGJ8— Gina (@ginadivittorio) May 9, 2018
At age 9, I found an injured groundhog baking in the sun; I corralled it into an igloo cooler—by myself—and carried it home. Fed it chicory & plantain leaves...it was better in 2weeks. It then lived under my shed. Maybe 9 year old girls would make better cops than adult males...— Nancy Garay (@hecubuzz) May 8, 2018
The department is going to roast him for the rest of his life and he deserves every bit of it https://t.co/3GcOGCl8oL— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) May 8, 2018
And naturally, people saw parallels between the deputy’s actions and other instances of police officers using deadly force.
Well, groundhogs are brown.— Register & VOTE 2018 (@SusanDFinSD) May 9, 2018
This one had a cell phone & was coming straight at the officer he was afraid for his life
Now if it had been a fluffy little white bunny with an AR-15 he would have talked the obviously disturbed bunny into surrendering then stopped to get lettuce
The cop shot this helpless animal dead but to be fair The groundhog was holding a cellphone. pic.twitter.com/pT1ikbQVT5— Travon Free (@Travon) May 9, 2018
The weird part was they found a gun and a baggie of coke on the groundhog pic.twitter.com/gilyCb47pI— 🌹Beardo Weirdo🌹 (@DVNT_Pinkie) May 8, 2018
The groundhog was a thug, he was high on marijuana and PCP. If he had only complied with the cop he would be alive.— J’Challa (@JTJ24) May 8, 2018
A lot of people also pointed out that the groundhog’s killing was getting more attention than some stories about people of color being shot by police.
For all of you rightly upset by this officer shooting and killing a groundhog, please be far more upset about officers shooting and killing unarmed people of color! Not either/or — but black and brown lives matter. https://t.co/NF8zbglZU6— Michael Eric Dyson (@MichaelEDyson) May 9, 2018
white folks more upset over a cop shooting a groundhog then they are over cops shooting innocent black people but whats new pic.twitter.com/Bs1cNJWlux— hoseoks lip mole (@2eoks) May 9, 2018
you know what’s sad about this: white people will be way more mad about a cop murdering a groundhog than a cop murdering a black man pic.twitter.com/3Cqn1HpB6Z— derp, from online™️, redux (@YungHeeHaw) May 8, 2018
It'd be awfully perfect for 2018 if the shooting of an unarmed groundhog is what finally made suburban white people realize the police may be a tad too trigger-happy— Joe (@JATnLA) May 8, 2018
On Tuesday, there was another groundhog-related incident in Eldersburg: a woman says a groundhog came after her in a parking lot.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.