EMBDEN — The owners of a cow that was shot and killed after wandering into a neighbor’s yard and causing damage to an SUV are hoping charges will be brought against the shooter as police continue to investigate the case.

Police say Sophie, a 3-year-old pet Holstein heifer, was shot and killed by a neighbor of her owners after causing damage to an SUV. Photo courtesy of Nikkia Danforth

“She was a family pet, not just a cow,” said Amber Richardson, the niece of Bruce and Jaime Danforth, the animal’s owners. “People have been reaching out to us. They just don’t understand how someone could be so cruel. We’re just trying to wrap our heads around it. We want justice for her. That’s all we really want.”

The cow, a 3-year-old Holstein heifer, was named Sophie and was a beloved pet of the Danforths, who also have two teenage daughters, Nikkia and Cierra. The family says the cow was shot Wednesday morning after wandering into their neighbor’s yard on Getchell Road.

The girls, ages 14 and 17, were home alone after their mother had left for work and their father was out of town, said Richardson, who lives in Canaan. Sophie was in a pen in the backyard but had apparently gotten loose when the girls heard a “pop” around 10 a.m.

“They thought it was their horse hitting its hooves,” she said. “They heard it again a few seconds later but didn’t think anything of it until they heard a knock on the door and it was the animal control officer along with the deputy sheriff, saying, ‘Your cow was shot and it’s dead.'”

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the call, has handed the case over to the county district attorney, who will decide whether charges will be brought up, said Somerset County Chief Deputy James Ross. In the meantime, the agency is not releasing the names of those involved.

“What it boils down to is a question of whether a property owner has a legal right to use lethal force like that to defend his property,” Ross said. “Is that level of force necessary?”

He said his agency was called to the scene after a report that the cow had done damage to a Lincoln Navigator by rubbing its horns on the fender.

Meanwhile, Richardson said her family has no way of knowing the extent of the damage because their neighbor would not allow them on his property to see the damage or retrieve the cow’s body. She said the animal was shot twice in the head by the neighbor’s adult son.

The two men did not respond immediately to requests for comment sent Friday night via social media.

After police arrived, Richardson said the pair dragged the cow by a chain tied to a pickup truck to the Danforths’ driveway.

The scene, captured by the family on video, shows the animal’s dead body being dragged up to the driveway as a woman’s sobbing is heard in the background.

The men undo the chain and drive off while the family proceeds to remove a collar from the cow’s neck and load her into a bucket loader, which Richardson said they used to move her to their yard and bury her.

“After they unhooked the chain, they’re smiling, turning around and backing out as the girls are crying, dropping to the ground because their animal is dead,” Richardson said. “Sophie was so loving. She was shot right in the top of the head twice.”

By Friday, the video had gathered almost 900 views on Nikkia Danforth’s Facebook page.

“This is the most loving cow I have ever seen but she lost her life today because of some f— faces wanting some meat for there freezer to bullets to her frontal lobe please blast this everywhere!!!!!!!!!!,” she wrote in another post.

Richardson said while Sophie had escaped from her pen before, she typically stays on the Danforths’ property when she gets out.

“All they had to do was come down and say, ‘Sophie is out,’ and the girls would have gotten the grain bucket,” she said. “Once you go and jingle it, she would have gone home. He didn’t even notify them Sophie was out. He killed her then called the animal control officer and sheriff. She was already dead when they reported it.”

Since the incident, the sheriff’s office has been made aware of threats on social media. Ross said he is urging people to “slow down and let us do our jobs.”

“Threatening people is not the way to do it,” he said.

Richardson also said while the family wants justice, they are not encouraging people to make threats against the alleged shooter.

“It really needs to be handled the right way through the law,” she said. “It should have been handled through the law in the first place the other day, rather than saying, ‘It’s justified. Sorry.'”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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