CORDOVA, ALASKA -- When Brian Hollinger and David Prosser, two visiting anglers from Washington state, decided they wanted to get some bear video, they had no idea things would quickly go awry.
The two followed a small black bear wandering around at the head of the dock leading to the Copper River Seafood processing plant. The bear suddenly made a hard left, running inside the cool, dark, fish-scented plant.
It began shortly before 7 on the evening of Sept. 26. Hollinger had a small video camera. He and Prosser followed the bear, estimated to weigh about 150 pounds, and saw it duck into the doorway of the plant.
Shortly afterward, Irenio Balbin, the plant's general foreman, who lives in an apartment upstairs, was told that a bear was in the shop. He picked up his 9 mm pistol, not necessarily to kill the bear or even to shoot it but to protect himself and perhaps make some noise, said Cordova Police Chief Ed Weibel.
It was dark in the building, and as he approached the hallway to the door, the bear had come through, he started looking for a light switch. At about that time, one of the bystanders shouted that the bear was in the shadows behind Balbin.
"I think he surprised the bear and it surprised him," said Bill Bailey, one of the plant's owners.
Balbin turned and fired at the bear, which took off through the plant, down through the coffee room and down the back stairs, where it was met by police and state troopers.
The bullet hit the floor, and fragments sprayed several men standing nearby. None were seriously injured, and only one sought medical attention.
The bear didn't fare as well.
When the police caught up to it behind the plant, a Fish and Wildlife Protection officer determined that it was too badly wounded and killed it.
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