Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

Man Who Allegedly Fired Shots During Attempted Emu Rescue Pleads Not Guilty

County employees, who were unharmed, were unable to relocate the ailing emu

A Campo man accused of firing a shotgun into the air to chase off county personnel who were trying to rescue a neighbor's injured emu during the Border fire last week pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to four felony charges, including discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Sean Michael Shepherd, 32, faces up to five years in prison if convicted. He is free on $50,000 bail.

RELATED: San Diego County Helps Dozens Of Animals Displaced By Border Fire


A Department of Animal Services worker was patrolling the perimeter of the Border fire in the far southern reaches of San Diego County along with a video-camera operator at about 6 p.m. on June 20 when they got a report from a passerby 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 Shepherd 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 allegedly went into his home, returned with a shotgun and fired off several rounds, causing the county employees to retreat and make an emergency call. They were unharmed.

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 Animal Services director Dawn Danielson noted.


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

Shepherd will be back in court July 6 for a readiness conference and July 12 for a preliminary hearing.

He is also charged with making threats to a public officer and possessing ammunition despite being a person who is prohibited from owning or possessing ammunition.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.