Man fires gun as officer tries to rescue emu from Border Fire

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Credit: County of San Diego

SAN DIEGO — A Campo man was behind bars Tuesday for allegedly firing a shotgun into the air to chase off county personnel who were trying to rescue a neighbor’s injured emu as the huge Border Fire burned nearby.

A Department of Animal Services worker was patrolling the perimeter of the huge wildfire in the far southern reaches of San Diego County along with a video-camera operator at about 6 p.m. Monday when they got a report from a passerby about the roaming ostrich-like flightless bird, which apparently had suffered burns, according to DAS public affairs.

The workers found the distressed emu and were approaching it when Sean Michael Shepherd, 32, appeared and got into an argument with them because he didn’t want them to take custody of it, officials said.

Following the exchange of words, Shepherd allegedly went into his nearby home, returned with a shotgun and fired off several rounds, causing the county employees to retreat and make an emergency call. They were unharmed.

Sheriff’s deputies then went to the neighborhood and arrested Shepherd. He was booked into San Diego Central jail on suspicion of negligently discharging a firearm and being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition.

Shepherd was being held on $50,000 bail pending arraignment, scheduled for next Tuesday.

County personnel were unable to relocate the ailing emu, which fled following the gunfire.

California law and court decisions allow animal-control officers to enter a property without a warrant when they have a reasonable belief that prompt action is needed to protect the welfare of an animal, DAS Director Dawn Danielson noted.

“Generally, the public is very supportive of our officers in the field,” she said. “The best thing they can do to help us is to keep their distance and watch quietly. Otherwise an injured animal can get spooked and run off. Then our officer loses an opportunity to help that animal.”

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