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Fawn's shooting death rocks Oakmont


Lynn Hajek and her husband were on their usual walk through their Oakmont neighborhood Monday afternoon when they were startled to see a man standing in his front doorway shoot a fawn at close range.

"I heard a loud crack. I heard a fawn scream. I saw smoke from the gun," she said. "

It turned out to be a high-powered pellet rifle, but the projectile lodged in the young animal's spine, paralyzing its back legs.

"The fawn was bleeding profusely but very much alive," Hajek said. "Where he hit it injured it severely, but didn't kill it."

The 3-month-old deer was taken to a veterinarian but had to be euthanized.

Santa Rosa police cited the shooter, Robert A. Bergeron, 73, for several misdemeanor violations of the Fish and Game code, including unlawful taking of an animal and taking a deer without a permit.

As news of the incident spread through the retirement community, there was conjecture that the fawn, which was seen with a sibling and its mother before the shooting, was feeding on Bergeron's plants and he was angered by it.

But a deer expert said the animals would not be attracted to the vegetation in his yard — juniper and rosemary.

In a brief interview the day after the shooting, Bergeron could give no explanation for what prompted him to pick up a gun and shoot the fawn.

"It's a bad situation. I'm mortified and embarrassed," he said.

"It was an egregious error on my part," he said. "It was one of the stupidest things I ever did in my life."

"I've been under a a colossal amount of stress for a number of years now," Bergeron said, citing an ongoing failure of his wife's health and a major renovation of the Oakmont home he bought on Hillsdale Drive in March.

"The move here was probably a bad idea," he said.

But he couldn't explain why he took it out on the fawn.

"Can I defend this as a rational act? I cannot do so," he said.

Bergeron identified himself as a former San Francisco police officer from 1962 to 1968. He said he also worked for the Fire Department, became an enrolled IRS agent and a general contractor.

"No doubt, people think I'm a monster, which I'm not. My life speaks to that. I served honorably in every position I ever had," he said. "Nothing like this ever happened to me before."

Bergeron's account to police differed from that of Hajek.

"He said it was an accident. He didn't know the gun was loaded and accidentally shot it," Sgt. Lisa Banayat said Wednesday.

She said the police report did not address why Bergeron pointed the pellet gun in the first place.

Informed that the wounded fawn was put down by the veterinarian, Bergeron said, "I am very sorry to hear that."

Oakmont residents and others who witnessed the incident were appalled.

"It's kind of shocking. Oakmont is a nice, peaceful place to live. To think someone takes a pellet gun and aims it at a fawn is disturbing," said P.J. Savage, who was walking her dog when she saw passers-by tending to the wounded deer.

"Even someone who doesn't like deer can go out and yell. They don't have to shoot them," she said.

The incident happened the same week that the Oakmont News ran a front-page story announcing the arrival of fawn season and cautioning residents to be on the lookout because the animals can dart into roads.

"It's that time again: The time when adorable little fawns bounce around the golf course and frolic through the neighborhood, always under the watchful eye of big mommy," the article stated.

Marjorie Davis, founder of Wildlife Fawn Rescue, said she was "enraged" by the shooting and what she described as "a violation of the code of decency."

"It's so barbaric. It's so loathsome," she said.

She said that this time of year, deer, probably by the hundreds, come from adjacent Annadel State Park into Oakmont by following a stream to the golf course.

She described a fawn's demeanor: "They are absolutely such helpless animals. There is something appealing, and it's nothing to do with Bambi. They are such gentle animals and so dependent on our mercy."

Davis said that in her more than two decades of rescuing animals, she has seen cases of more mature deer, especially antlered bucks, being wounded or killed by poachers.

But shooting such a young fawn is a new low, she said.

Davis was called to tend to the wounded, 30-pound animal Monday. She said it was still brightly spotted, indicating it was less than 3? to 4 months old, when the markings fade.

Veterinarian Grant Patrick of Montecito Veterinary Clinic, who administered to the animal, said young fawns have very weak bones. He said the pellet went through the first lumbar vertebrae and into spinal cord nerves.

Patrick said there was no choice but to end its life.

If such an injury occurred to a human, he said it would have been difficult to walk again.

"With a wild animal, it's just not possible," he said.

(News Researcher Janet Balicki contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)