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.