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A runaway cow was shot by a Billings Police Department sniper on the South Side late Tuesday afternoon after leading police and animal control on a chase through downtown.

The cow got loose while being unloaded at the Public Auction Yards around 3 p.m., Billings police Sgt. Jay Berry said.

Auction yard manager Bob Cook said while they were unloading the consigned cow, she tried to run back into the trailer before escaping the loading dock wings.

"I guess she saw just enough daylight through the wing doors and crashed through them," he said.

Officers first spotted the cow at First Avenue South and South 28th Street.

"The cow was charging traffic — just a bad situation," Sgt. Berry said.

Jeramie Burg, 35, of Billings, was leaving the Parmly Billings Library when he first spotted the black cow.

"The way the cow was snarling and scuffing, at first I thought it was a bull without horns," Burg said. "It was total chaos. At one point, I saw the cow tip over a man who was on a bicycle in South Park."

Burg followed the cow as it raced through traffic and watched as law enforcement attempted to push the cow away from the downtown area.

Officers followed the cow south from downtown, where they were able to corner her at 10th Avenue South and South 28th Street.

A construction worker, who was trying to help contain the cow, was charged and run over by the cow and taken to the hospital for what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries, Berry said.

The cow then ran east and crossed South 27th Street. At that point, animal control was able to get ahead of the cow and corner her into a grassy area shaded by olive trees behind Passages, at 1001 S. 27th St. The cow was corralled by chain-link fencing, the Passages building and law enforcement vehicles.

"She was pretty worked up, which made for a difficult situation," Berry said. "We had to take a look at what could happen, at what did happen, and make a decision based on those factors."

Cook said that rather than risking more injuries or damage, the decision was made to shoot the 1,200 pound black Angus cow.

"She was what we call 'on the fight' to begin with," Cook said. "She was mad when she came off the truck and those kinds of cows can certainly be dangerous."

Police called in a sniper and the cow was shot at 4:40 p.m. from about 70 yards away.

"It was the most humane and safe way," Berry said. He said several options were considered.

Cook said the auction yard works hard to secure the stockyards and only a handful of cows have escaped in its 40 years of operation.

"We don't lose cows, but it can happen and it did happen today," Cook said. "The outcome today is unfortunate, but we made the right decision and that was for the safety of people."