$21,000 reward offered in elephant shooting

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – More than $21,000 in reward money is being offered after a circus elephant was hit by a bullet during a drive-by shooting outside the BancorpSouth Arena early Tuesday morning.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey veterinarian Dr. Dennis Schmitt examined Carol, the 39-year-old endangered Asian elephant, and located a dime-size bullet wound on the elephant’s shoulder. The elephant was in stable condition late Tuesday.
Schmitt said the elephant is active, mobile and comfortable and is being treated with medication. She will be taken to Springfield, Mo., where she will be observed for several weeks and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tupelo Police are investigating the drive-by shooting and several organizations and an individual have contributed $21,250 in reward money for information that leads to the arrest of anyone responsible.
Capt. Allan Gilbert of CrimeStoppers and the Tupelo Police Department said a silver or white Ford Explorer was seen in the immediate area at the time of the shooting, which occurred around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Ringling Bros. Circus Spokesperson Melinda Hartline said this is the first time an incident of this nature has happened in the 17 years she has been with the company.
“We are frustrated and appalled that something like this would happen on our property,” said Todd Hunt, the BancorpSouth Arena executive director. “Our concern is not only for the animals, but circus and arena personnel that were in the area. We want to assure them that Tupelo is safe and that this isn’t normal or tolerated.”
Former 1st District Congressman Travis Childers of Booneville was equally frustrated with the incident and was the first to publicly offer reward money Tuesday, pledging a $250 reward for information leading to the arrests of anyone involved in the shooting.
“How sorry is it to shoot a defenseless animal that was brought here to make children smile,” he said. “This isn’t representative at all of Tupelo.”
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is offering up to $10,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is offering $5,000, PETA is offering up to $5,000 and CrimeStoppers of Northeast Mississippi is offering up to $1,000.
Tips can be made anonymously at 1-800-773-8477.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said someone shot out of a vehicle towards the BancorpSouth Arena where the circus animals are being kept in preparation for performances beginning Thursday.
Hartline said the show will go on and elephants Duchess and Patty will still perform.
jb.clark@journalinc.com