Paul Belcher of Meadows of Dan tried to help his neighbor put down a wayward cow Thursday evening and it cost him his life..

Now Floyd County animal control officer Garland "Bucky" Nester is on leave pending an investigation into how a bullet intended for his cow went astray and killed the 75-year-old Belcher.

Belcher’s wife calls the death of her husband a tragic accident.  Connie Geller of the Virginia State Police says Nester was attempting to shoot one of his own cows but shot Belcher instead. Jean Belcher told Shawna Morrison of The Roanoke Times her husband went to help Nester because the cow was loose. Nester, she said, apparently didn’t know Belcher was nearby when he shot at the cow with a handgun, apparently missed, and the bullet struck Belcher.

Belcher was dead when rescue squad officails arrived.

Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman told us Friday that he asked the Virginia State Police to handle the investigation, a normal procedure when a county employee is involved in a shooting.

(Updated June 2, 2008, to correct Paul Belcher’s name.)