MLT police refer charges in crow shootings; state wildlife department action also expected

The Mountlake Terrace Police Department has referred charges to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office following its investigation into a rash of crow shootings by a male suspect earlier this year. The charges include reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in the city limits, said Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Pat Lowe.

Charges are also expected to be forthcoming against the suspect for violating state laws concerning fish and wildlife. Sgt. Wendy Willette, supervisor of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement program’s Snohomish County detachment, said investigators are currently “in the process of submitting the case to the prosecutor for filing. Since the case has not yet been submitted, we’re not disclosing any specific information about the nature of those charges,” she said.

“We are working with both the Snohomish County prosecutor and with the Washington State Attorney General environmental crimes division in order to pursue prosecution in this matter,” Willette added. Her department’s investigation has also worked in conjunction with the Mountlake Terrace and Brier police departments, both of which had crow shootings related to the case occur within their jurisdictions.

Surveillance videos obtained during the investigation show incidents of crows appearing to be shot in public areas, such streets and intersections, in which the suspect’s red Ford Ranger was visible. Washington state law concerning aiming or discharging firearms and dangerous weapons defines that it is illegal to, “Willfully discharges any firearm, air gun, or other weapon, or throws any deadly missile in a public place, or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby.”

Crow hunting is only allowed in Washington state from September through December and is subject to regulations, which include requiring permission from landowners. The unlawful hunting of wild birds is a criminal misdemeanor under state law.

People must have a permit to shoot or hunt them even if they do not ultimately take possession of the bird. According to the statute, “A person is guilty of unlawful hunting of wild birds in the second degree if the person hunts for wild birds and, whether or not the person possesses wild birds, the person has not purchased the appropriate hunting license, tags, stamps, and permits issued to Washington residents or nonresidents.”

Conviction for a misdemeanor can carry a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail, although “it’s not very often that anyone in our (department’s) statute violations get jail time,” Willette noted. “Usually it’s a monetary penalty, sometimes it’s community service with a nexus to an environmental purpose or something to that effect – there’s a number of remedies associated with it.”

— By Nathan Blackwell

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