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Officer wrestles, subdues errant emu

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If your emu is missing, you might want to call the West Valley City Animal Shelter.

Or talk to Stan Larsen, the guy who had to wrestle the errant critter to the ground early Thursday morning.And he may want to talk to you about his new pair of pants, which the giant bird shredded in hand-to-beak combat in a darkened back yard here.

The animal tale began about 1:30 a.m. when a police officer saw the bird bounding west along 4100 South.

"The officer called it in as an ostrich," Larsen said, but it was clearly a case of mistaken identity. Officers used their police cars to herd the big bird into a cul-de-sac and finally a backyard. Larsen and West Valley City police officer Celia Georgi ran a quick lineup and determined the bird was actually an emu, a slightly smaller cousin to the ostrich.

"But emus are even more dangerous than ostriches because they can kick sideways as well as forward," Larsen said.

Larsen said he and Georgi, who has the benefit of actually having been trained in large bird apprehension, decided "we could blind it with our flashlights and wrestle it into the truck."

So Larsen grabbed the emu by the neck, which the bird clearly considered to be an act of police brutality.

"It started to jump up to kick me," Larsen said, "so I tackled it."

In the ensuing melee, the bird ripped both the back pockets off Larsen's pants and ripped the trousers open from his belt line all the way down to his knee.

With Larsen on the ground, hanging onto the emu with one hand and the bird's leg with the other, two other police officers shined flashlights on the wrestlers while two other officers helped to subdue and hog-tie the bird.

Larsen, who has been a West Valley enforcement officer assigned to animal control for the past 13 years, said emu wrestling is a new one for him.

"I have roped a buffalo, chased a brahma bull and wrestled a couple of pretty good sized pythons," he said. "This is the first time I've tackled an emu."

"I love my job," he said. "You never know what is going to happen next."