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Deputies shot lion eight times after it killed intern

Deputies shot lion eight times after it killed intern at NC wildlife center

Sheriff’s deputies used eight shots to kill a lion that fatally attacked 22-year-old intern Alex Black at a North Carolina wildlife center Sunday, according to a law enforcement report.
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Sheriff’s deputies used eight shots to kill a lion that fatally attacked 22-year-old intern Alex Black at a North Carolina wildlife center Sunday, according to a law enforcement report.

Sheriff’s deputies used eight shots to kill a lion that fatally attacked a 22-year-old intern at a North Carolina wildlife center Sunday, according to a law enforcement report released Wednesday.

Alex Black, 22, was helping to clean an enclosure for big cats when she was attacked by the 14-year-old lion. The recent college graduate had worked at the center for less than two weeks, her family has said.

Three officers with the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office responded to the center on the Alamance-Caswell County line, at 11:25 a.m. Sunday morning.

The staff was trying to separate the lion from the victim, according to the incident report.

“Staff members stated that the victim had not moved from the spot she was in since the lion left her there,” the report said. “The victim did not appear to be moving, and it was unclear as to her status.”

When officers arrived, Conservators Center CEO and co-founder Douglas Evans was waiting for a tranquilizer gun.

A worker in a golf cart brought the gun, and Evans tried to load it. But the dart “appeared to break” and he “could not get the broken part out,” the report said.

He then left on the golf cart to get another tranquilizer gun, according to the report. Meanwhile, staff members used raw meat to try and lure the lion to a different part of the enclosure and away from the victim.

After an undetermined amount of time, Evans came back with a blow gun and shot the lion twice.

Officers were told by executive director Mindy Stinner that two shots would “put the lion to sleep.” The lion did lay down but “showed no signs of becoming sleepy,” according to the report written by Sgt. Michael Griggs.

Evans fired a third shot, and a lieutenant told Griggs if the “third dart did not put the lion to sleep, we would have to use lethal force to neutralize the situation.”

Officers then cleared the area near the enclosure and Griggs used a shotgun to shoot the lion.

The lion eventually lay down after officers shot him six times, but with “his head still up and looking around.”

An officer shot the lion a seventh time, this time in the breast at the base of the neck. The lion appeared to stop breathing a few minutes later.

Evans then advised deputies to shoot the lion in the heart. Griggs took the eighth and final shot, and Evans and Stinner confirmed the lion was dead.

Black was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the incident report.

Listen to the 911 call after a lion fatally attacked an employee at the Conservator's Center in Caswell County.

No special training

All new officers tour the Conservators Center when they are hired, but they do not undergo special training just because the wildlife center is there, said Caswell County Lt. Darrell McLean.

It’s the first time, he said, that law enforcement have had to respond to an animal attack at the center.

“Nothing out of compliance was found at the center during inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in April 2018 or January 2017,” the Associated Press reported. “The government inspector counted 16 lions, three tigers and two leopards among 85 animals during the 2018 site visit.”

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has covered city government, crime and business for North Carolina newspapers since 2012. Reach her at 919-829-4807 or ajohnson@newsobserver.com.

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