Shooter says bear wandered into bullet’s path
October 31, 2007
PITKIN COUNTY ” A Lazy Glen man accused of fatally shooting a bear cub in May told a judge Tuesday that the bruin moved into the path of a warning shot he fired.
Keith Peiffer didn’t formally enter a plea in Pitkin County Court but he spoke publicly about the incident for the first time.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Peiffer told Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely. “The thing moved at the wrong time.”
After the court appearance, Peiffer elaborated on the May 19 incident for a reporter. He said he was among several residents at Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park who were having problems with bears during the spring. He said he even contacted the Colorado Division of Wildlife for advice. Wildlife officers told him to get BB guns to sting bruins and chase them away. Lazy Glen is located upvalley from Basalt.
Peiffer, who suffers numerous debilitating illness and requires crutches to walk, confronted a bear in his kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. He said he chased the bear out of his house by shooting it with BBs.
The bear ran up a tree in his lawn after exiting the trailer. Peiffer said he wanted to scare it away, so he fired a .22 rifle to produce a noise. The bear moved into the path of the bullet, he claimed.
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The wildlife division investigated and ticketed Peiffer for “unlawful take” of a black bear. Their investigation showed the bear was a yearling that weighed between 40 and 50 pounds.
“The animal didn’t pose a threat to a person as defined [in state statutes],” a DOW spokesman said at the time.
If convicted, Peiffer faces a $1,000 fine, according to Pitkin County Deputy District Attorney Matt Walker.
Peiffer indicated in court he is incapable of paying a fine that size. He is disabled and has a limited income. He hasn’t hired an attorney, he said, because that would cost as much as or more than the fine. The public defender’s office won’t represent him because the crime isn’t punishable with jail time, he said.
Walker said no plea bargain is on the table. State statutes don’t allow the fine to be waived or reduced, but Walker said it would be possible to set up a payment plan.
“I’m not unsympathetic to Mr. Peiffer’s plight,” Walker said.
Peiffer said he was prepared to enter a plea of not guilty and forge ahead with his defense at trial. Fernandez-Ely said she had the ability to appoint an attorney to defend Peiffer and have it paid at the state’s expense. She asked one of the two attorneys in the courtroom, John Van Ness, if he would take the case.
“Sure, I’ll do it,” said Van Ness.
No plea was entered so that Peiffer had time to consult with his attorney. The case was continued until December.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.