Social Media Storm Erupts Over Officer Interaction with Opossum

Shortly after midnight on March 16, an area resident posted on Facebook about an interaction he had with a Lowell police officer.

The post, which was accompanied by photos of an opossum in a box, stated that the resident had stopped on Alden Nash Ave. by Meijer after two opossums were apparently hit by a car. The resident asserts that the officer pulled up behind him, exited his vehicle and swore at him. The post then alleges the officer kicked the opossum so that it “flew 10 feet from the middle of the road to the grass on the side.”

By Friday afternoon, that post had been shared more than 6,000 times, and more than 2,000 comments had been made on the Lowell Police Department Facebook page about the matter. In response, the department posted the following update to a Facebook post:

On Wednesday around midnight, an officer on patrol responded to a vehicle stopped in the middle of Alden Nash Avenue SE, an area where speeds often top 55 mph. The vehicle’s driver explained to the officer that he was stopped out of fear for the safety of possums in the road. Our officer saw two possums that appeared dead lying in the middle of the road and then moved them out of the traffic lane.

The driver has since filed a complaint against our officer’s actions during this incident, and we have investigated but found no wrongdoing by the officer. Some social media posts have made inaccurate allegations about the animals being kicked or the driver being sworn at when neither was the case. While our officer used inappropriate language at the scene, it was only in the presence of a fellow deputy and after the driver had departed. The officer has been reprimanded for his language.

We have submitted our report to the Kent County Prosecutor for an independent review. The Lowell Police Department takes all community complaints seriously and investigates them to ensure we are providing fair and responsive service.

Body cam footage, obtained by TV station WZZM 13, shows the officer exiting his vehicle and turning on the audio of his camera as he walks past the driver to two opossums in the road. One opossum appears to be standing, and the officer uses his foot to roll the animal off the road. The second opossum is lying on the road and the officer pulls it to the shoulder by its tail.

A vehicle from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department pulls alongside the officer from the opposite direction and asks if the opossums were hit. The Lowell officer says he doesn’t know and then tells the driver of the stopped vehicle, “You can head out.”

After the vehicle drives away, the Lowell officer tells the Kent County deputy that he’s not going to put the opossum down although he mentions that he has a shovel. He makes a comment about opossums playing dead before heading back to his vehicle and saying “unf****** real.” He does not appear to shout at any time in the video.

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