Man cited for fatally shooting beloved Elmwood Cemetery deer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man has been cited for killing Ella, a beloved deer at a Kansas City, Mo. cemetery.

Phoenix M. Vankirk, 19, of Independence, Mo., was issued a ticket by the conservation department for killing a deer out of season. A spokesperson with the Missouri Department of Conversation said that carries a carries a 375 dollar fine.

The deer, named Ella, acted as a mascot for the historic Elmwood Cemetery. She was born there two years ago and never left.

"I do miss her. I miss her a lot," said Erina Sturm. "Ella brought this cemetery alive."

She took hundreds of photos of the dear and captured several videos.

"I was amazed that I was able to walk up to a deer and pet her and that's the day I fell in love with her," said Sturm.

She and dozens of other people would come just to see and pet her.

Cemetery spokesperson Bruce Mathews said the deer brought peace. 

"She would come and stand in the open doorway to the chapel when there was a funeral service going on," said Mathews.

But back on August 4, the deer was found shot dead at the cemetery.

Vankirk told police was unaware that the deer was tame, and was only trying to feed his family.

According to the probable cause statement, Vankirk said he saw the deer from his porch and jumped the cemetery fence after retrieving his .45 caliber handgun. After he shot the deer, he drove to the cemetery gates to retrieve it and realized they were locked.

READ | Probable cause statement:

Authorities said during the police interview, Vankirk said he wanted to tell the community he was sorry and that it was not a malicious act.

Mathews said they are considering pressing charges for trespassing and he hopes something good will come out of this.

"I hope he can just learn from this and never make a stupid mistake like this again because he took away a member of our family," said Mathews.

If Vankirk does not pay the conservation department citation, he could face a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail, if convicted.


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