Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Movie Star Grizzly Bear Kills Trainer

The grizzly bear that wrestled Will Ferrell's character in the recent film "Semi-Pro" seemed to obediently follow cues - which made its killing of its trainer with a bite to the neck all the more stunning.
Three experienced handlers were working with the grizzly Tuesday at the Predators in Action wild animal training center when the bear attacked Stephan Miller, 39, said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers.
Stephan Miller is the cousin of training center owner Randy Miller, she said.
Pepper spray was used to subdue and contain the bear, and there were no other injuries, Beavers said. Paramedics arriving shortly after the initial emergency call around 3 p.m. were unable to revive Stephan Miller.
The Department of Fish and Game investigated the incident, but will not decide whether the bear will be euthanized because the attack occurred outside its jurisdiction during a training session on facility grounds, department spokesman Harry Morse told the San Bernardino Sun Tuesday.
Morse speculated that the county animal care officials may decide the bear's fate. A call placed early Wednesday to the county's Animal Care and Control Program was not answered.
Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Phelps said the bear was a 5-year-old male named Rocky. The Predators in Action Web site said Rocky is 7½ feet tall and weighs 700 pounds.
The site, which was off-line early Wednesday due to overtaxed bandwidth, identified Rocky as the animal that appeared with Ferrell's character in the scene from "Semi-Pro." Randy Miller doubled for Ferrell in the bear wrestling match, according to the site.
Calls seeking comment from Randy Miller were not immediately returned Tuesday evening.
The center, located in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, has two grizzlies, and also trains lions, tigers, leopards, cougars and wolves for uses ranging from film and TV to advertising and education.
In a February interview, Randy Miller called Rocky "the best working bear in the business," the San Bernardino Sun reported on its Web site Wednesday. But, the paper quoted him as saying, "If one of these animals gets a hold of your throat, you're finished."
Randy Miller has 25 years of experience training animals and his facility has had a perfect safety record, according to the site.
Randy Miller won a World Stunt Academy Award for his work wrestling tigers in the 2000 blockbuster "Gladiator" and performed stunts with his animals in films like "The Postman," ''The Island of Dr. Moreau," and "The Last Samurai." He also helped recreate animal attacks for National Geographic documentaries and the Discovery Channel.
It was not immediately known how long Rocky has been at the facility.
Denise Richards, who works with wild animals at Moonridge Zoo, a sanctuary for injured and homeless wildlife in nearby Big Bear Lake, said trained animals that turn on their handlers are often destroyed.
"You can train them and use as many safety precautions as you can, but you're still taking a chance if you're putting yourself in contact with them," Richards said. "It's still a wild animal. Even though it may appear that the bear attacked for no reason, there was a reason. I'm sure Randy understands why it happened. They're not cold-blooded killers."
Native grizzly bears are extinct in California.
Cowboys agree on deal to acquire Pacman from Titans
Maybe Big D can handle Pacman Jones.
The Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans agreed in principle on a trade on Wednesday for the suspended cornerback.
The agreement, which was first reported by ESPN's Ed Werder, was confirmed to The Associated Press by both teams. No terms had been filed with the NFL office, which already had closed for the day.
Sources tell Werder that Dallas will send its fourth-round pick (the 126th overall) in Saturday's draft to the Titans for Jones.
There are also conditions attached to the trade related to Jones being reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and how much he plays for the Cowboys. If he plays a significant amount of time in 2008, the Titans will get an additional pick from the Cowboys in 2009.
If he doesn't get reinstated by the NFL, the Titans will send an undisclosed 2009 draft pick back to the Cowboys.
Also, Pacman has reached a financial settlement with the Titans regarding his contract situation. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Jones will forgo the $1.25 million performance bonus that he earned in 2005. Instead of repaying the Titans a portion of his signing bonus, he has agreed to make a $500,000 donation to a charity of the Titans' choice within the next two years.
Jones has agreed to a restructured contract with the Cowboys. Sources told Werder that it will be a four-year contract with no guaranteed money. By restructuring instead of transferring his existing deal, Jones gives up nearly $7 million in guaranteed base salaries over the next three years.
Agent Manny Arora told the AP on Wednesday night that they had not been told of the trade by either team, but were cautiously optimistic. Jones has talked often of his desire to play for the Cowboys in recent weeks, even appearing on Michael Irvin's radio show in Texas.
"We recognize the fact of where we are with regards to the league," Arora said. "We recognize the fact he's got a guaranteed contract with Tennessee, and we recognize the fact there's risks involved at this point. We also recognize there's significant public relations implications for the teams, and in fact Dallas has to sell tickets, the knowledge their fan base has a point of view.
"With all that in mind, we've said from Day 1 we're willing to rework our contract. Once the trade gets completed or official, we'll be ready to do our part because we want to play for Dallas. I don't have any hesitation saying we can get this done and get it done quickly."
Jones was scheduled for a base salary of $1.74 million in 2008 and had been under contract through 2009 before his suspension.
The Titans gave Jones permission to talk to other teams weeks ago, and the cornerback had been barred from working out on their property in February. The Titans and Cowboys struggled to agree on compensation for someone who hadn't played since December 2006.
He was the first defensive player drafted in 2005, sixth overall out of West Virginia, and easily was Tennessee's best defender in 2005 and '06. His four career interceptions came in 2006 as he helped the Titans to an 8-8 record. He also led the NFL in punt-return average in 2006 with 12.9 yards per return and three touchdowns.
But six arrests and 12 incidents where police were called since being drafted led to his suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in April 2007 for the season. Goodell declined to ease that punishment when Jones appealed to return after sitting out 10 games and now will only say that he'll reconsider reinstating the cornerback before training camps open.
The Titans gave Jones permission to talk to other teams weeks ago, and the cornerback had been barred from working out on their property in February. The Titans and Cowboys nearly had a deal at the NFL owners' meetings last month, but talks stalled over the issue of compensation for someone who hadn't played since December 2006.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones said twice in the past week, including Tuesday, that the trade was stuck in neutral. But Pacman Jones, baggage and all, is a top cornerback and a dynamic kick returner who can fill some of the Cowboys' biggest weaknesses.
Jones also has been very successful lately offering second, and third, chances to players like receiver Terrell Owens. The latest reclamation project was Tank Johnson, who signed during the 2007 season while he was still suspended.
The Titans might have been more eager to trade Jones after news surfaced Monday night that the cornerback had paid money to a 29-year-old man arrested for a Las Vegas strip club shooting in February 2007 that left a club employee paralyzed.
A police report said that in the weeks after the shooting, Jones paid $15,000 to the man, who threatened to hurt the cornerback, his daughter and his mother. Jones picked the man out of a police lineup last Friday, helping fulfill part of the plea deal he agreed to last December when reducing two felony counts of coercion to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.
But he will have to testify under that plea deal. Jones' attorney, Robert Langford, said Wednesday the trade had "nothing to do" with the legal case in Las Vegas and declined further comment.

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