Call it the case of Jane Doe.
Doe, a full-grown female deer, provided a short-lived jolt to the routine of the Douglas County Courthouse on Thursday morning.
And brace yourself: Aside from adoptions and perhaps 50% of weddings, well … “there are no happy endings at the courthouse,” longtime prosecutor Jeff Lux said.
Lux would know. From his “garden-level” courthouse office — with its scenic, subterranean views — Lux has seen all sorts of wildlife: “raccoons, a turkey, a deer …”
His voice drifts.
“… a drug addict.”
Wait. We interrupt this deer tale to allow Lux to explain. A few years ago, he was in the County Attorney’s conference room with two state senators, talking about legislative proposals, when a man jumped down into the window well, lifted up a drain cover, grabbed a baggie, climbed back out of the window well and scurried off.
“The senators couldn’t believe their eyes,” Lux said.
Lux wasn’t quite as shocked.
Then came Thursday.
Shortly after 9 a.m., Doe had apparently nosed her way around the windows of the U.S. Bank branch at the Woodmen Tower near 17th and Farnam Streets. Then Douglas County courthouse security officers Doug Schlautman and Robert Martinez saw it sprint straight across Farnam and up the wide walkway and steps that lead to the courthouse.
It essentially ran into the revolving door but couldn’t figure it out. (No slight to the deer. Observers have watched several courtgoers struggle to figure out how a door revolves.)
Doe then jumped over a marble ledge and landed 12 feet below, in the window well outside the offices of Nicole Brundo, a deputy Douglas County attorney, and Julie Martin, a workers’ compensation judge.
And then, bedlam. Several members of the Douglas County Attorney’s Office crammed into Brundo’s office.
“There he is,” one attorney said as the deer paced in front of the window, perhaps confused by its reflection.
“Oh my gosh,” another said.
“Is that blood?”
“Maybe we should call Animal Control?”
The deer thumped against the window. Brundo furiously dialed.
“I’m down at the courthouse — and I have one of those (picture) windows, and a deer jumped down 12 feet into my window well,” Brundo said into the phone. “He’s hurt. He’s enclosed. He’s banging around on the window.”
She turned to the attorneys gathered. “He can’t get out, can he?”
Martinez, meanwhile, was concerned that she — the deer was a doe — might get in. He warned the attorneys to back up.
“Those windows aren’t that thick,” Martinez said. “This isn’t the zoo.”
Pardon prosecutors for being confused. Inside its first-floor office, the County Attorney’s Office has had adventures with mice, a rat and a bat. Outside, raccoons, turkeys and chubby squirrels. Maybe the deer could join the courthouse kingdom — and they all could live happily ever after.
But this isn’t a Disney movie. Outside, security screeners, prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies gathered, waiting for the Nebraska Humane Society to arrive.
By then, Doe had run into the window of Martin’s office, shattering it. Blood poured down her front legs.
Soon after, a Humane Society veterinarian and animal control officer arrived. The veterinarian shot it with a tranquilizer dart — and eventually the deer lay down.
The veterinarian examined the injured deer. And for a moment, courthouse personnel had visions of their very own Bambi, roaming the halls, nuzzling up to judges, maybe even high-fiving drug court graduates.
“They told everyone they tranquilized it,” one officer said.
He winked. The tranquilizer was permanent. Very, very permanent.
Mark Langan, vice president of field operations for the Nebraska Humane Society, said after tranquilizing the deer and surveying its wounds, the veterinarian had no choice but to euthanize it.
“The injuries were too severe,” Langan said. “(She) put this deer down as quick as she could.”
Attorneys, as they’re wont to do, spent the rest of the day speculating about how the deer made its way to 17th and Farnam. Their verdict: Maybe flooding was to blame. Maybe it no longer had a home at the Gene Leahy Mall, which is undergoing renovations.
Langan doubted it. Deer don’t hang out at the mall, he said. It likely made its way from the woods near Conagra’s campus, got confused, hustled its way west.
And wound up at the last place for storybook endings.