Conservative commentator Ann Coulter was arrested by police in Palm Beach, Florida last night after shooting a black cat while on neighborhood watch.
According to local news reports, Coulter thought the feline fit the "profile" of a burglar, and fired a shot in its direction. The bullet grazed the feline's left paw and left superficial damage. It is expected to make a full recovery.
The incident occurred on Coulter's second night of patrolling for her local neighborhood watch, which she joined last week out of solidarity with George Zimmerman.
She is expected to be charged Friday and will face a maximum 3-year prison term and/or $100,000 fine for endangering the welfare of an animal.
"We take animal rights very seriously here in the state of Florida," says Lt. Jack Horner, of the Florida State Police. "You can't just fire a weapon at a black cat and expect to get away with it scot-free."
Cat Scratch Fever
Neighborhood watch programs have been under increased scrutiny since George Zimmerman shot an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Florida last year.
Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense and was acquitted this weekend of all charges. But some say the case illustrates the danger of allowing untrained, armed civilians fight crime.
Coulter appeared to have been inspired by Zimmerman's vigilantism, according to Connie Rubirosa, the local prosecutor.
"After interviewing the suspect, it seems Ms. Coulter joined neighborhood watch specifically to shoot at black things without being punished,"she says. "Little did she know we have very strict animal cruelty laws here in Florida. She will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In a statement on her official Tumblr page, however, Coulter said she acted in self-defense against a dangerous breed of feline.
"Black cats are more dangerous than white cats," the post reads. "They're more violent, prone to aggressive behavior, and often lick puddles outside of bars hoping to get drunk.
"Don't get me wrong, I've met a few black cats that were well-behaved. My cat at home even has a few black friends. But overall these are dangerous animals, and I believe I acted appropriately.
"What would you do if a drunk black cat leaped out in front of you in the middle of the night? There've been so many burglaries in this area. You can't blame me for protecting myself."
Animal rights groups have hailed the prosecution, saying that violence against animals deserves punishment. Some civil rights groups, however, seem perplexed that Coulter could be facing more time than Zimmerman.
"I think what Coulter did was terrible and should be prosecuted," says Mona Fredricks, an activist based in Chicago. "But it seems to me that black cats have better legal protections in Florida than black people."