An Easton man who murdered a lion cub at a mall in South Carolina has been charged with animal cruelty and violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Scott Thompson is accused of killing the 2-year-old cub in a hunting area on Aug. 27, 2016, after the cub wandered away from its mother and into the woods.
A video taken at the time showed Thompson’s rifle pointed in the direction of the cub, and he fired a single shot in the air, hitting the cub in the face, according to prosecutors.
The bullet ricocheted off the animal’s skull and exited through its mouth, striking its eye.
Thompson pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Thompson’s attorney, Mark L. McInerney, said Thompson is a white nationalist, but that he is not a violent racist.
He said Thompson has a long history of mental illness.
Thompson, a father of three, has no previous criminal record and has served time in a prison for violent crimes, according.
He has not been charged for the killing of Cecil, which is believed to be the largest-known lion attack in the U.K. Lions are typically found in Africa, with the southern African species considered to be more social and active.
Cecil is the largest of the African lion species and measures approximately 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, 3 feet (1.6 meters) wide and 1 foot (0.9 meters) tall.
“It was a senseless act of violence, and I feel deeply for the cub’s family and loved ones,” McInherney said.
McInerneys defense argued that Thompson was acting in self-defense.
The video, he said, showed Thompson aiming at the cub before firing the first shot.
Thompson is a former U.P.S.’s top trainer, and in his defense, he had been a trainer for nearly 30 years when he shot Cecil, McInnerney said in a statement.
Prosecutors said that Thompson also fired a “missile” at a black man who was hunting with his family, killing him and wounding another person.
It’s unclear if the bullet struck Thompson in the head, but the animal has been identified as a lion, a lion species that’s considered an endangered species.
Last year, the U-T San Antonio and the Los Angeles Times published detailed accounts of a hunt in which an animal named Cecil, named after Cecil the lion, was shot and killed.
The news sparked outrage in South Africa and prompted calls for the United States to revoke its Cecil trophy, which had been purchased by a hunter in Zimbabwe, according a press release from the Southern African Wildlife Foundation.
In March, the Trump administration announced a crackdown on the U.-T program.
We must unite and work together to defeat this killer lion.”