Video of police in Coeymans, New York, using two patrol cars to run down and kill a potentially rabid raccoon at a shopping plaza Monday has sparked outrage and a state investigation.
The video shows two police cars — one a marked sport utility vehicle, the other an unmarked sedan — purposefully trying to strike the raccoon as it attempts to flee.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the incident, an agency spokesman said Monday afternoon.
“We are appalled,” said Todd Cramer, president and CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. “This was a completely unacceptable, reckless and inhumane way to address the situation.”
Cramer added that the animal protection organization, based in Menands, will partner with law enforcement officials “to investigate this matter and ensure that this does not happen again.”
Coeymans police defended their actions, posting a statement on Facebook shortly after a resident posted two videos of the incident on the social media platform at about 2 p.m. had garnered nearly 5 million views on Facebook by noon Tuesday.
The animal “was not in an area that was safe to discharge a firearm due to the proximity of pedestrians and residences,” town police said online. The agency said its officers killed the raccoon “as quickly and humanely as possible.”
Bryanna Catucci, the Facebook user who posted the videos, wrote online that she was leaving a grocery store when she saw the officers charging the raccoon with their cars. It took 15 minutes for the animal to die, she said.
“You would think if it had rabies they would shoot him instead of torturing. Sad day,” the woman wrote.
Police said they received several 911 calls about a potentially rabid raccoon in Faith Plaza in Ravena, where the animal had tried to enter a business. The acting chief for Coeymans police, First Sgt. Daniel Contento, declined further comment.
“Usually perception drives reality — and this is not perceived very well,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.
The sheriff said his deputies were not involved in the Ravena incident, but in similar situations have called in local animal control officers or local trappers to contain the animal.
“You have to be very cautious if it’s a rabid animal because, my God, if that thing bites you, it’s a very painful process with all those shots,” Apple said. The sheriff added that officers also need to know someone is always watching and will likely report any inhumane treatment of an animal.
Scores of people from across the country have called what they believed was the Coeymans Police Department to protest the officers’ methods, Apple said.
However, the phone number listed online for the department sends callers directly to the Albany County 911 center — inundating dispatchers with complaints.
The sheriff said he fears the wave of raccoon-related calls may cause dispatchers to miss an emergency, and asked that people voice their concern in other ways.