$6,000 reward offered in cattle shootings at JoCo meat plant

Valley Oaks Steak Company lost 2 steers, 1 heifer
Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-12 23:23:58-04

LONE JACK, Mo. — Police are investigating after three cattle were found shot last week over a period of several days.

It happened in a pasture near Highway 150 and Hutton Road in Lone Jack. 

Tom DiSalvo and his wife live right next to the field and frequently enjoy watching the cattle come and go. Last weekend, however, they noticed a completely still black shape in the distance. On Sunday, they decided to investigate.

"We went back there, and it was a dead cow laying on the ground," DiSalvo said. 

The steer, which police determined had been shot, belonged to Valley Oaks Steak Company. The family-owned business is planning a controversial feedlot and processing plant expansion in Lone Jack.

On Tuesday, the company said another steer was found shot in the same pasture. On Thursday, a pregnant heifer was found suffering from a gunshot wound and had to be euthanized.

Again, it was in the pasture behind DiSalvo's house.

"For one to get shot and another one get shot someplace else, I mean that's not an accident," he said.

The Valley Oaks Steak Company declined an interview on Monday, but did post on Facebook that "...we are very sad and can't believe this happened in our community."

The Missouri Cattleman's Association and the Johnson County Cattleman's Association are teaming up to offer a $6,000 reward for information that leads to a felony conviction. 

In a post on Facebook, the MCA wrote of the crime, "...some groups are relentless in their efforts to stop modern agriculture. They are throwing science to the curb and spreading their fiction as fact. But shooting animals? This is where misinformed meets evil."

Vocal opponents and skeptics of the Valley Oaks expansion have also expressed disgust at the cattle shootings.

"Absolutely horrified. We do not condone this in any way. We don't know why or how or anything," Tabitha Schmidt, the CEO and President of Powell Gardens, said.

Powell Gardens staff said they want to know more about potential environmental impacts, like issues with runoff, related to the Valley Oaks expansion. Schmidt emphasized they are pushing for civil discourse, not violence.

"We honestly hope whoever did this is brought to justice," she said. 

Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Farming, a Facebook group opposing the Valley Oaks project, also condemned the crime in this statement:

"The cattlemen, cattle families, and members of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association that are also part of the Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Farming, appreciate the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association for their timely response and offer to stop any malicious acts toward cattle and property.

We are livestock producers and personally understand the feelings this farmer has about this horrible act. Hopefully, the Association’s swift actions, offer of a reward, and the federal prosecution for whomever is responsible will help keep other beef producers from having such a loss.

Thank you for your support to all cattlemen, big or small.

The Lone Jack Neighbors for Responsible Farming promotes “good neighbor” practices in farming, and responsible ownership of livestock and the environment in which they are raised."

If you have any information about the shootings, call the Lone Jack Police Department at 816-697-2417.