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Sheriff deputies shoot escaped lion

Monday, April 7, 2003

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A 350-pound lioness that escaped from a wild animal sanctuary was shot dead by Bexar County Sheriff's deputies after being shot with tranquilizer darts.

"Four of us fired at her with handguns and shotguns all at once. I don't know how many shots were fired. But still, the lion did not go down immediately. She stumbled and then fell dead," Sgt. Kenneth Steward told the San Antonio Express-News for its Monday editions.

The sheriff department received a call at 7:23 a.m. Sunday from a resident complaining about "a lion walking down the street," Steward said.

Ten deputies responded, meeting up with six handlers from the Wild Animal Orphanage, home to 600 lions, tigers, wolves, primates and other unwanted wild and exotic animals. The non-profit sanctuary was established about two decades ago.

The group first spotted the lion in a heavy brush, Steward said.

"The handlers shot her with a tranquilizer dart, but those take 10 to 15 minutes to take effect. The lion charged the handler, knocked her down and then ran off, and we chased her," Steward said.

The group found the lioness near the same spot about 1-1/2 hours later. A handler shot the lioness with a second tranquilizer dart. This time, the lioness charged the entire entourage of handlers and deputies.

Once the lion began charging, Steward said, the deputies had no choice but to kill the animal.

"We're talking about a large, wild animal. The tranquilizers obviously were not bringing her down," Steward said. "She was a threat to the community. There are homes and people out here. It was a scary situation. Thankfully, no one was injured."

Ron and Carol Asvestes, directors of the orphanage, did not return several phone calls from the Express-News on Sunday.

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