Montgomery County police posted a $5,000 reward last week after they hit a roadblock in their investigation into the fatal shooting of a deer in a residential back yard last month near downtown Silver Spring.
A pair of officers arrived in the 700 block of Silver Spring Avenue shortly after 8:30 p.m. June 24 to find a group of residents gathered around a dead adult buck lying in a neighbor’s back yard, said Lt. Robert Carter, deputy district commander of the Silver Spring police district. Officers quickly determined that the cause of death was from a bullet that had entered the animal’s chest, Carter said.
Residents reported to police that a loud gunshot had been heard in the neighborhood immediately before the deer was found, and police collected more evidence near the deer that indicated to them that the shot had been fired from nearby, Carter said. He declined to say whether they had found a bullet at the scene.
Police still are searching for the shooter, prompting the Humane Society of the United States to offer a $2,500 reward July 12 for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator, spokeswoman Elise Traub said.
A second donor, who wished to remain anonymous, offered July 14 to match the Humane Society’s reward, bringing the total amount to $5,000, police said. Since 2008, the Humane Society has offered roughly $350,000 in rewards — usually in increments of $2,500 — for leads in its anti-poaching campaign.
The case was unusual because the deer was shot in a densely populated neighborhood, she said.
“The typical poaching crime happens in a nonresidential area,” Traub said.
Officers initially told residents that the shooting would be investigated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a hunting violation. After facing growing protests from neighbors who believed that the incident was more serious than a hunting violation, however, county police began investigating a few days after the shooting once officers realized the scope of the incident, Carter said.
“That was an incorrect assumption,” Carter said of the initial officers’ determination. “We have more than a simple hunting violation, we have reckless endangerment, the discharge of a firearm in an urban area and [several other violations] of a serious nature.”
A reckless endangerment charge, which is a misdemeanor, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a potential fine of as much as $5,000 in accordance with Maryland law.
“I was outraged,” said Jay H. Keller, who was watching the deer grazing in his back yard when the gunshot was fired a few houses down from where the animal was found, of the original determination that the incident was hunting-related. “It was almost like, ‘This is a different department, we can’t pursue this; unless anyone saw someone pull the trigger, we can’t pursue it any further.’ ”
After talking to neighbors and witnesses near the address at which the deer was shot, police identified a resident of the neighborhood as a person of interest in the case, Carter said. Police obtained a warrant to search the person’s home and found evidence, but nothing strong enough upon which to make an arrest, Carter said.
Carter said he could not discuss what, exactly, police recovered in the search warrant because officers made no arrest. He added that he remained optimistic that someone will step forward with information that will help to positively identify the shooter.
“We’ll continue to search out other physical evidence and possible eyewitness testimony to support our case,” he said.
Meanwhile, many residents, including Ann Marie Moriarty, anxiously await the outcome of the investigation.
“Who the [heck] thinks it’s right to fire a rifle in a neighborhood with this many kids around?” Moriarty said, remembering her shock at finding the dead deer in her back yard.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Officer Charles Wigle at 301-565-7740.