Tom Porter had hunted before. An older gentleman with icy blue eyes and a healthy sweep of white hair, his poise suggested a man who’d just dog-eared a page of The Economist before greeting you. But the hunter in Porter knew the display outside his porch window on Jan. 1 seemed a tad unorthodox. Around 11:50 pm, in the quiet residential corner of Ninth Street and Mapleton Avenue, witnesses say Boulder police officer Samuel Carter, 35, approached a bull elk, locally known as “Big Boy,” as it munched on crab apples from a tree on Porter’s front lawn. Nestled in Carter’s shoulder was his police-issued, 12-gauge shotgun.
The point-blank blast exited the elk’s neck. Within seconds, the friable ammunition had done its job. Minutes later, Porter said, deputy Jeff George arrived. Amid friendly exchanges using hunting vernaculars, Carter posed with the elk, grabbing the branches of its antlers. In the photographs, Big Boy’s head hangs heavily off Porter’s lawn—its meaty tongue protruding like a drunken frat boy’s. Then, within half an hour, off-duty officer Brent Curnow, 38, reversed his green pickup truck onto the nearby sidewalk. According to witnesses, the men loaded Big Boy’s carcass head-first into the bed with the aid of a hand winch. Then they drove away.
“They sawed off one of his antlers,” says Porter, recalling the men’s difficulty that night hoisting the dead animal into the truck (Note: The witness’ name has been changed). At the tail end of January, wreathes decorating Big Boy’s memorial have withered. On the sidewalk, there’s a mottled trail of dark gray leading to where Big Boy bled out.
Porter is warily reluctant to disclose too many details of that night. Part of the reason is that Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner and the district attorney are still running an internal investigation, and divulging anything not in the affidavits against Carter and Curnow could get messy. The other, more obvious, reason is that between the candlelight vigil and the #MapletonElk tweets flooding the Internet, only people nuzzled into a basement corner with earplugs could’ve escaped the noise surrounding “Elk-Gate.”