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Public Safety

Shots Fired As County Workers Try To Rescue Injured Emu In Border Fire

Campo man is accused of firing a shotgun into the air; no one was injured

A Campo man was behind bars Tuesday, accused of firing a shotgun into the air to chase off county personnel trying to rescue a neighbor's injured emu as the Border fire burned nearby.

A Department of Animal Services worker was patrolling the perimeter of the East County wildfire along with a video-camera operator about 6 p.m. Monday when they got a report from a passer-by about the roaming ostrich-like flightless bird, which apparently had suffered burns, according to the agency.

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 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, officials said. The workers 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, Department of Animals Services director Dawn Danielson noted.


"Generally, the public is very supportive of our officers in the field," Danielson 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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