West Hollywood, California (Monday, October 12, 2009) - A sniper fired a rifle loaded with two-millimeter brass bullets Saturday during a Santa Monica puppy mill retailer protest, hitting three protesters including West Hollywood community activist Ed Buck.
No one was seriously injured; the victims suffered minor welts and contusions.
Santa Monica police are investigating what they called “assault with a deadly weapon,” a felony.
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) organizers offered a $5,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the perpetrators.
The protesters were at Aquarium & Pet Center, 829 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA, to protest that retailers’ alleged sale of puppy mill dogs, pups that have been bred in inhumane conditions for resale.
Several dozens protesters gathered at the sidewalk in front of the store to shout, wave signs and attempt to warn off clients in the mid-afternoon when they heard gunfire and several of the protesters felt impacts.
The people hit by the bullets included head organizer Carole Raphael Davis, who lived in WeHo for 15 years before departing for LA, Ed Buck, who operates So Cal Golden Retriever Rescue and advocates for slower development in the city and another CAPS protester who Ms. Davis could recall only as Elizabeth.
Mr. Buck said his wound was “a welt on my thigh,” while Ms. Davis credited her sign with slowing the bullet meant for her, saving her injury.
“They must have been aiming at the groin, though,” she said. “The bullet hit my sign right at my groin, and Ed’s and Elizabeth’s injuries were both to the groin.”
SMPD investigators found at least three two-millimeter solid brass bullets customarily fired from a pneumatic rifle, or BB gun.
A rifle of that type may not sound deadly, but a shot in the ear can kill and one in the eye can blind. The incident appalled local officials who heard of it.
“It’s shocking to think that people would try to intimidate people or cause them harm simply because they expressed their views,” said WeHo council member Jeffrey Prang, who has been working with the group to write a municipal ban on the re-selling of any pets except bred or rescued animals in West Hollywood.
For more on that story, click here… WeHo Drawing Up Anti-Puppy Mill Law.
He said, “We need to bring the perpetrators to justice. Acts of gun violence are always out of bounds.”
He said that protests against retailers who sell the animals they obtain from large puppy or kitty mills where mostly un-hygienic and inhumane conditions rule can raise emotions to a keen.
“That means we need to be ever vigilant for those who would settle arguments though that gun violence,” he said.
The protesters claim that store employees stood at the front door laughing and high-fiving after the shots were fired.
The store’s owner, Scott Lee, could not take time to comment on Sunday when WeHo News tried to interview him.
For photos and video, please visit WeHoNews.com.