A police officer shot a wild elk and now, his life is forever changed.
Sam Carter was on duty when he gunned down the elk named Big Boy. He even posed with his prey like it was a trophy. One big problem was Big Boy was the unofficial mascot of the city of Boulder, Colorado.
The residents marveled at seeing the great beast roaming the streets and feeding in their backyards.
One neighbor, Valerie Yates told INSIDE EDITION, “It's something incredibly special to be so close to nature and have wildlife roaming through your neighborhood.”
The killing of Big Boy sparked an uproar in Boulder. A candlelight vigil and even a song was sung with lyrics like, “They said it was mercy, reason to kill.”
It happened when Carter was on night patrol at a Boulder intersection. He claimed the elk was injured so he opened fire to put the animal out of its misery.
But prosecutors say text messages prove Carter lied, that he actually planned to hunt down the elk for the purpose of putting a trophy on his wall.
One text allegedly said, “Found him. He's gonna die."
Carter got a message that said, "K when you think you can whack it."
Then finally, "Elk down."
Boulder County prosecutor Stan Garnett took INSIDE EDITION back to the scene. He says the elk was innocently eating crabapples from a tree when he was shot.
Garnett said, “He posed for the pictures here and the head of the elk was down over the rock wall, like he's on a safari or something.”
Carter was busted, resigned from the force, and convicted of multiple felonies including official misconduct.
Carter was asked, “Sam, how do you feel about the sentencing this morning?”
He replied, “I guess we'll see.”
Carter looked like a beaten man at his recent sentencing. He said in court, “I take full responsibility for my actions. I am haunted by this incident every minute of every day.”
Carter could have gotten six years in prison, but he might consider himself lucky, because the judge gave him a break.
The judge said, “The court will place Mr. Carter on concurrent terms of probation for a period of four years.”
Probation plus 200 hours of community service for the death of Big Boy.
Now, Carter's a convicted felon and will never again be able to work as a police officer.
Garnett told INSIDE EDITION, “Hopefully he can put this behind him and move forward and have a productive life.”