DIXON – Don Knight, a rural Dixon resident, says he tried to help an apparently injured deer avoid a collision with a car.
When the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was called, it had another solution: kill the animal.
Late Friday morning, Knight, a Vietnam veteran who owns an electrical contracting business, said he was driving on the state Route 2 access road near Schmitt Plumbing & Heating when the small buck walked up within 10 feet of his truck.
The deer's left antler was broken off, and his left eye was damaged.
"After standing there for about 10 minutes and talking to the deer, he started to walk up to me," Knight wrote in a letter to Sauk Valley Media. "I could tell he had been hit by a car and didn't know where he was."
He was able to get ahold of the animal.
"I wanted to keep him from crossing the main highway and getting killed by a car," he said. "I worked with the deer for about 1 1/2 hours."
A DNR employee told Knight that the deer was sick and needed to be killed, Knight said. A conservation officer later shot the deer, state police said. It happened near Schmitt Plumbing and Sauk Valley Baptist Church.
Tim Schweizer, a DNR spokesman, said he didn't know about the local incident, but he said the agency often kills seriously injured deer.
"A conservation officer makes the decision that a deer needs to be humanely put down," Schweizer said. "That happens all the time. Unfortunately, we have too many deer-vehicle accidents."
Debbie Schmitt of Schmitt Plumbing said her 8-year-old daughter was watching the commotion with the deer through a window. But Schmitt said she didn't expect an officer to shoot it.
Schmitt wasn't looking out, but she heard the gunshot. Her daughter was very upset to watch that, Schmitt said.
Knight, who left before the "needless killing," said it was wrong to shot the deer next to a church and a business with a small child watching.
"They could have tranquilized it and taken it somewhere else to be killed," he said, calling DNR "gun-happy."
He said he was an animal lover, but that he wouldn't deny deer hunters their rights.
"How could they say this deer was sick?" Knight said. "He was not trying to hurt me. He let me hold him. What they did was sad."