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Carriage company considering lawsuit after charges dismissed against woman who scared horses

A person in a dinosaur costume on the day of the incident (Source: Provided) A person in a dinosaur costume on the day of the incident (Source: Provided)
A horse is spooked by the person in a dinosaur costume (Source: Desmond Sebjornson) A horse is spooked by the person in a dinosaur costume (Source: Desmond Sebjornson)
A person is treated by medics after the incident (Source: Live 5) A person is treated by medics after the incident (Source: Live 5)
A photo shows the scared horses and a person in a dinosaur costume (Source: Palmetto Carriage Works) A photo shows the scared horses and a person in a dinosaur costume (Source: Palmetto Carriage Works)
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

An attorney for a Charleston carriage company said they are considering a lawsuit against a woman accused of donning a dinosaur costume and scaring horses after charges against her were dismissed.

Palmetto Carriage Works attorney Ravi Sanyal said the company was informed Tuesday that prosecutors planned to dismiss charges of disorderly conduct and wearing a mask against Nicole Wells.

The charges were dismissed Wednesday morning. 

“After carefully reviewing the facts, city prosecutors determined that, while the evidence was sufficient to support the initial charges, it was unlikely to meet the higher burden of proof at trial," City of Charleston spokesman Jack O’Toole said. "As a result, prosecutors moved to dismiss the case.” 

Wells was charged in a May 18, 2017, incident in which police said she wore a dinosaur costume on Church Street and made growling noises that spooked carriage horses. While attempting to control the horses, the carriage driver fell out of the carriage and broke his leg when it became caught in the front wheel and then was run over, police said. As the frightened horses backed up, police said the carriage struck a parked vehicle.

Sanyal said there was a witness who saw Wells wear the costume the day before the incident and walk by the gate at Classic Carriage Tours where horses depart for tours. The employee approached her and advised her of the potential that horses could be frightened and claimed Wells shook her head yes and walked away, Sanyal said.

Sanyal said they are contemplating a lawsuit against Wells, calling her actions "negligent."

"It's important to note that the prosecutor's office was made aware [of the prior incident] and the still dismissed the charges," Sanyal said.

Carriage driver Van Sturgeon told police he yelled at the person in the costume to "get out of here" three times, but the person did not move and continued to face the horses, which caused them to back up and jackknife the carriage, the report states.

"Perhaps she did not realize what a threat that appeared to be to my animals, but they responded remarkably well," Sturgeon said at the time. "Any animal, you included, are entitled to your flight response, the key is how quickly do you come back under control. If I throw a snake on you and you jump, you're entitled to that, but if you can come back and get in control really quickly, that's the key to emotional control and both of the animals demonstrated that."

Sturgeon said he was speaking at the time the woman turned toward the horses and did not hear any growling sound other witnesses reported to authorities, but said he wouldn't have been able to hear that from where he was.

"If she turned away, I'm fairly convinced that things would have been different," he said.

City prosecutors have not yet released a statement on the reason charges were dismissed.

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