Free range: Bambi vandalizes Whole Foods

Whole Foods is committed to the freshest organic and natural products. But the deer that crashed through its door last week was not part of a new marketing plan notching up freshness to the on-the-hoof level.

"It was the craziest thing," says Maureen Kennedy, who was at Shoppers World around 5pm December 27. She saw a panicked deer race to the corner of the center near the Tuesday Morning shop and try unsuccessfully to jump over the building. The deer then ran toward Whole Foods, hitting the tables outside the store, and then smashed into the door, shattering it.

"Somebody was running past me, saying call 911," says Kennedy. "I thought, what's a cop going to do?"

The beast proceeded into the store foyer, knocking over some flower buckets.

"People were quick to respond, to gently coax it toward the exit," says store manager John Robertson.

As for damage to the store, "We were more worried about the deer," he says.

Police got the call at 5:07pm that a deer was inside Whole Foods. A woman's car had hit it in the parking lot before it entered the market, says Lieutenant John Teixeira with the Albemarle police.

The deer fled out the opposite door at Whole Foods, and damaged a door at Equity One before disappearing. It has not been apprehended, nor do police have any leads on its whereabouts.

Initially, the police report was erroneously filed as a vandalism.

"A deer cannot commit vandalism," clarifies Teixeira. "It does not have criminal intent."

Hmmm. With all the deer that hurl themselves in front of unsuspecting motorists, some wonder just how innocent doe-eyed Bambi really is.

And as deer and human populations crowd more and more into each other's spaces, deer bursting into retail shops undoubtedly will become more common. On October 16, 2003, a two-point buck crashed through the window at Blockbuster on Hydraulic Road, knocking down an assistant store manager.

No human injuries were reported in the Shoppers World incident.

"We're surrounded by houses," says Robertson at Whole Foods. "I'd never seen a deer this far in."

Can a "deer crossing" sign on the Downtown Mall be far behind?

Scene of terror: For a few moments, Whole Foods almost had the freshest venison in town. Store manager John Robertson helped shepherd the intruder out the door.