Deer beaten on video: Teens said they were hunting, trying to finish the kill, police say

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A 17-year-old boy told an investigator he and another teen beat a deer because he had wounded it but didn’t have the ammunition to kill it, according to court documents.  

The beatings were recorded in a series of videos that were posted to social media in November. After a public uproar and a months-long investigation, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has charged each teen with four felonies and numerous misdemeanors and summary offenses. The charges were announced Friday. 

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the 17-year-old said in a Dec. 3 interview with a Game Commission investigator that he and Alexander B. Smith, 18, were hunting from an enclosed tree stand on Smith’s property in Summerville, Pennsylvania, about 75 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.   

The juvenile told police he shot the deer at about noon Nov. 30, 2019, with a Savage Bushmaster .450-caliber rifle and then inadvertently ejected a live round out of the firearm onto the floor of the tree stand.

The deer, which was about 150 yards from the tree stand, was wounded by the initial shot. As the teens approached, the 17-year-old fired again to kill the deer, but missed from about 10 yards.

The juvenile said he didn’t have any live ammunition remaining, so he and Smith “began to repeatedly kick and stomp the deer, attempting to kill the deer,” the affidavit states. The juvenile said he was without his knife because it was in his vehicle.

The video shows the deer was temporarily paralyzed from the gunshot wound and attempted to struggle with each kick. Smith can be seen in the video standing on the deer’s back leg.

The affidavit states that the video was shot on Smith’s iPhone and that he sent the Snapchat video to the juvenile and others.

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Other videos show the right antler hanging loosely on the deer’s head, and then the antler being removed from the deer’s skull while it was alive. The juvenile said the antler fell off and that he had it in his vehicle.

The 17-year-old said the deer “ran off after their attempts to kill the deer failed.” The boy reported to wrestling practice later that afternoon.

Smith contacted the teen later in the day, he said, telling him to delete the videos because of the social media outcry, according to police. 

A day after interviewing the juvenile and his parents, and securing his cell phone, police received copies of the videos that another person had saved to his phone. That led police to obtain a search warrant for Smith’s phone, which was sent for forensic analysis along with the juvenile’s phone.

Smith agreed with much of the juvenile’s account in his interview with police, according to the affidavit. The 18-year-old said he was not carrying a weapon.

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Smith admitted to recording the events using the Snapchat app on his iPhone 8. He confirmed that the “right antler was pulled off the deer’s head” by the juvenile, and that Smith stood on the deer’s neck in an effort to crush its windpipe.

After the deer ran off, Smith said the teens returned to the tree stand to get their gear, which included the juvenile’s backpack. He said the 17-year-old gathered additional live ammunition from the “box of shells he had either in his backpack or from his vehicle” before moving to a large rock formation to continue hunting.

Smith and the juvenile each face four counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, two for torture and two for causing serious bodily injury or death. They also face misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals and tamper with/fabricate physical evidence and several summary offenses. 

Smith faces an additional misdemeanor charge of corruption of minors. The 17-year-old will be tried in juvenile court. 

Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at mstallsmith@ydr.com or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.

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