Hunter who killed dog near Edwards says hes falsely accused
Editors note: The following story, which is about an incident that occurred Nov. 5 near Edwards, is reprinted with permission from the Dunn County News in Wisconsin. Lee Jensen did not return phone calls from the Vail Daily.EDWARDS, Colorado Lee Jensen of Elk Mound, Wis., believes hes been falsely portrayed and falsely accused after he recently shot and killed a dog while hunting for elk in Edwards, Colorado.He says hes sick of how hes been treated by people, including Colorado authorities, who have judged him without knowing both sides of the story.Jensen, 50, said people dont believe his side of the story even though hes the only one who knows the truth because hes the only witness.
Jensen, general manager of Five-Star Dairy in rural Elk Mound, said though he had plenty to do on the farm, he decided he needed to get away for a few days when he was asked to be a last-minute replacement on a four-man hunting trip in early November. It was his second elk hunting trip, the first one coming 10 years ago. I was just going out there to have a little fun, he said.The group of local hunters three dairy farmers and a machine shop owner from Chippewa and Dunn counties hunted a few different public hunting areas in national forests.During the first four days of the trip, the party stayed about 60 miles south of Steamboat Springs and hunted anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away. We hunted hard, said Jensen. But with nice weather, the elk just werent moving.
On the fifth day, the group checked out another hunting opportunity, again on public hunting land in a national forest.This time, though, the road only led part of the way up a mountain. From there, it turned into a trail (impassable by truck) the West Lake Creek Trail near Edwards and became more like a walking path farther up the mountain. Jensen said it was a long trip just to get to the trail from where they got out of their vehicle. Splitting up from the others, he decided to stay far away from the private property and began hiking up the mountain. And even though the weather had been pleasant prior to that day, snow was falling hard, and there was already plenty on the ground.Im a big guy, and the snow was deep and the air was thin, he said, noting that he would hike up the steep path for a while, catch his breath, and then hike some more.Eventually, he was up high enough so he could leave the trail and move to a place where he could look down into a valley and watch for elk. Twice he returned to the trail to hike to higher vantage points.At that point, he decided to head back to the path again.I was kind of debating which way to go, Jensen said. But I was kind of afraid of getting lost.He had just gotten a GPS (global positioning system), but wasnt familiar with it. He figured if he could stay somewhat close to the trail, he was less apt to get lost.
So he began working his way back to the path again.And it was quite steep, Jensen said. And the snow was accumulating and pretty deep. All of a sudden, over the brink of this hill, comes this dog at me.Jensen said that as the dog came running downhill, he hollered at it once, then a second time in a more stern voice, but to no avail. The dog appeared to be showing its teeth and growling. By that time, he estimates the huge chocolate Labrador retriever was 7 feet in front of him. The animal was in the process of crouching down on his front feet and looked as if he was going to lunge for Jensen. Thats what I perceived, he said. I turned and basically shot from the hip. I didnt even have time to pull the gun up. And, of course, I hit him. I dont even know how I hit him, but I hit him. Ive never shot from the hip before.The dog was hit, yelped and got away only a short distance before it died.Jensen estimates it was 25 to 30 seconds before he saw the man who was taking care of the dog.He said Nathan Schroepfer, 33, of Edwards, was running over the top of the hill screaming at him for shooting the dog and not being able to tell the difference between an elk and a dog.
Jensen told him he thought the dog was going to attack him.Schroepfer, who was taking care of his roommate’s dog, told Jensen that he needed to help him haul the dog down the mountain. Jensen said he would help, but he says he told Schroepfer he knew he couldnt make it all the way down the mountain. And he gave the man his business card and told him to have the owner call him.But that was the end of civil conversation as the man threatened him.Jensen alleges that Schroepfer said, Youre going to die for doing this.Jensen added, No matter what I said, no matter what I did, he was just going off on me. … I felt bad. But after being threatened by a stranger in a secluded location, he decided he wanted nothing more to do with him.
The Vail Daily reported Schroepfers story.Schroepfer told the Colorado newspaper that he and Crowley, a 2-year old, 115-pound chocolate Labrador were hiking for a couple of hours on the trail and were having a good time.He was having a great time, Schroepfer said. The dog was as happy as he could be.Schroepfer said the dog darted past him with a stick in his mouth and was about 15 to 20 feet away and out of his sight when Crowley was shot.He denies in the report that Jensen shot in self-defense, especially since he said the dog had been shot in the side from behind. Schroepfer also said Crowley was the least harmful dog he ever knew.He said Jensen didnt want to help and showed no remorse, saying that Jensen told him, I have dogs back home. Just take the collar off and leave it for the coyotes.After Jensen left, seemingly more interested in hunting further up the mountain than helping, Schroepfer told the Vail Daily that he carried the body down the mountain as far as he could before burying him in the snow, where he retrieved the dog the next morning with the help of friends and neighbors.Crowleys owner, Dave Perron, of Edwards, was out of town when the dog was killed.Perron told the paper that he planned on trying to raise awareness on the trail by posting signs.The Eagle County Sheriffs Office reported to the newspaper that Jensen would be charged with criminal mischief and for recklessly discharging a firearm.
When I shot this dog, he was like 7 feet from me, Jensen said. The guy that had the dog was nowhere in sight. Jensen said Schroepfers estimation of his distance from Crowley was way off. Schroepfer reported that he was 15 to 20 feet behind the dog, which means that he was in the line of fire, but Jensen said he wasnt nearly that close. Jensen estimates it took the man 20 to 30 seconds to arrive.Jensen also says that Crowley wasnt 115 pounds, estimating that the dog weighed closer to 140 to 150 pounds.Jensen owns a Weimeraner that weighs 115 pounds.This dog was way bigger, he said.He said when his dog runs into him when its playing around, it hurts. But, he said, Crowley was never weighed. The Colorado paper only used what Schroepfer reported.
As an outsider, Jensen said it was evident his perspective didnt matter.He said the authorities made up their minds to charge him only on the evidence that the dog was dead and on the word of a man from Edwards.Jensen said there was no reckless discharge since he was defending himself.Jensen estimates he was 30 yards below the path when Crowley came running at him. Since the mountain terrain was steep and Crowley was 3 to 4 feet higher than him and only 7 feet away, Jensen said, He was literally a split second from being on me.He said he knew he was shooting a dog. I hit what I was shooting at, he said. If I would have known it was a pet and Id known that guy was that close, I wouldnt have shot. But I didnt know those things at that time.In addition, Jensen said, no one climbed back up the mountain to establish a crime scene.Its basically my word against his, and he didnt see anything happen because he was over the hill, Jensen said.He says he didnt shoot the dog from behind, though the shot was from a bit of an angle, hitting Crowley just behind his front leg.Jensen feels things could have been different had Schroepfer had the dog under control.One of Jensens biggest points about the incident is that Schroepfer was the only hiker he saw on the trip. Though hikers are allowed in the national forest, too, he said he questions why Schroepfer hiked so far and high up the mountain.Furthermore, I question even having a dog in a national forest during elk hunting season, he said, adding that neither the dog nor Schroepfer wore any blaze orange. Though there is no law requiring people or animals to wear bright colors to help avoid accidental shooting, Jensen reports that Crowley had nothing but a collar on and Schroepfer was wearing green bibs overalls.Jensen said Schroepfer failed to mention to authorities that he had threatened Jensens life, which is why Jensen left the scene without helping carry Crowley down the mountain.
Jensen said he decided to head up the mountain and that he told the man to take the collar and leave the dog for the coyotes, admitting, Well, I probably shouldnt have said that.And so he left and didnt run into the man again.When he threatened me, I just figured it was better just to get away, Jensen said.He says he did get a call from a game warden that night.The next afternoon, while Jensen was hunting elsewhere, a deputy sheriff called him and told him that he needed to return to the county where the dog was killed so that he could be served a summons.Jensen says he didnt understand why he would be charged and not Schroepfer.We both played a role in it, he said. This whole story, this whole thing in the context the only one that can know if I was threatened or not in that situation was me. Nobody else was in that situation.He says he told the deputy, I go to Colorado. Im up on this mountain in the middle of nowhere and this dog comes after me. I shoot this dog in self-defense. This guy threatens my life. And I have to go for a summons?The deputy insisted that Jensen return to Eagle County. However, Jensen told the deputy that he didnt know when his party was heading back to Wisconsin (whether that night or the next morning), and he needed the deputy to call back so that he could get the phone number as he didnt have a pen and paper to write anything down.The deputy didnt call back, and the party headed out that night. The deputy has called since the incident, and he said this week that a summons was being mailed. The charges, however, are not extraditable, so Jensen wont have to go back to Colorado.Those people out there dont know anything about my character, Jensen said. They didnt want to.However, Jensen said he feels badly about what happened and would still welcome a call from Crowleys owner.Joel Becker can be reached at email@example.com.