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North Stonington - Asa Palmer came upon an upsetting sight Saturday morning in a field of his family's dairy farm.
Angel, his nearly year-old Ayrshire heifer, had her jaw shot off sometime late Friday or early Saturday. When Palmer found her, her tongue was so swollen that she couldn't swallow. By the time she was put down Monday, the red-and-white calf hadn't eaten or had any water since Friday.
"I would rather they had shot it dead," said Palmer, 18. "It was horrible to see her like that, it was awful."
David Abely, a North Stonington resident state trooper, said Wednesday that arrest warrants are in the works for the suspects in the shooting. The suspects also wounded a second cow standing in the Palmers' field on Pendleton Hill Road. The second cow, a Holstein, was hit in the ear, and the bullet lodged near its spine, Palmer said.
"There's gonna be a bullet in the back of that cow for life," Palmer said. "They can't get it out; the vet says it would do more harm than good."
Charges will include cruelty to animals, Abely said.
Palmer said three "kids known for causing trouble in town" are the prime suspects. They apparently used a rifle to shoot from the road at a group of 12 cows in the field, he said. Neighbors reported two gunshots, a pause, and then three more, Palmer said, sometime in the early morning hours Saturday.
"I wish I could tell you why they did it," said Palmer, a senior at Wheeler High School. "I've never done anything to whoever did it, and neither did Angel."
Palmer's father and uncle own Palmer Farm, a North Stonington dairy farm that has about 500 head of cattle, Palmer said. He owns five, now four after Angel's death. The cost for the animal alone, Palmer said, is about $800 to $1,000. If Angel had lived, she would have produced milk and calves, he said, generating income that is now lost.
"It's a lot," he said.
In response to the incident, state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, announced Wednesday the creation of "The Angel Fund" to raise money for Palmer. Urban said in a news release that she was "sickened and angered" by the shooting, The fund will be set up at Chelsea Groton Bank.
"Asa Palmer is the future of farming in our state," Urban said. "We need to reach out to Asa and his family at this time. This is an opportunity for North Stonington to show our true colors and let Asa know how much we care. I know how hard Asa works and I know how saddened he is by this senseless destructive act. I will be the first person making a donation to help him put his herd back together."
Palmer said he works 25 to 30 hours a week during the school year at the family farm. During the summer, that number reaches 50 or 60 hours, he said. After graduating this June, Palmer said he plans to go to college and major in dairy management. He'll come back to North Stonington to dedicate himself in the family business.
The first order of business, he said, is having those responsible brought to justice for the senseless act.
"There has to be a special place in hell for people like that," Palmer said of the shooting. "They have to just be degenerates."