A black cow headed for the slaughterhouse escaped a gate, a fence and even shotgun fire as it headed toward freedom — and straight into rush-hour traffic on Ashley Phosphate Road.

North Charleston police dispatched officers to a call concerning a cow in the road about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. On the way there, they found people running and pointing along Northwoods Boulevard as a loose farm animal dashed toward a Lowe’s parking lot.

Officers asked employees at the home- improvement store to close the gate and pen in the cow. The animal’s owners, 50-year-old Lester Bivens and his 23-year-old son, Lester Jr., soon arrived.

They told officers to shoot the cow, according to the police report. They had their reasons — Bivens and his son had loaded the cow into a trailer at their farm in Jedburg Tuesday with plans to take it to a slaughterhouse in North Charleston Wednesday, they told police.

They brought the animal back to their home on Heatley Road, a pocket of land in Charleston County’s jurisdiction, set behind mobile home parks within city limits.

When they tried to put a bucket of water in the cow’s trailer, it pushed open the gate and ran out. Bivens and his son told police that the ride from the farm had agitated the cow.

Visited at the home Wednesday, the younger Bivens declined to speak to a reporter.

The men fired at the cow with a shotgun. Although struck, the cow never stopped. Instead, it grew madder and escaped the fenced-in yard, the men told police.

From there the cow traveled down side streets and out to Ashley Phosphate Road, which it crossed. The cow then crossed Northwoods Boulevard, where North Charleston resident Jacob Powell spotted the cow on his way to Home Depot.

“I thought, ‘That’s not normal. Let me see what’s going on,’?” Powell said Wednesday.

He noticed that someone had shot the cow and that it was bleeding from the face. Powell called 911 as he followed the animal in his SUV and cornered it behind a nearby hotel.

Powell said a man with a shotgun arrived at the scene before police and began yelling. Concerned about the gun, Powell backed up his truck and bumped the cow — which took off again.

This time the cow made its final stop at Lowe’s.

Charleston County Animal Control officers created a temporary corral to contain the cow behind the store, and Bivens and his son backed up their trailer to the holding area.

The cow damaged several cars during its tear through town, according to police. Bivens and his son do not face charges, since the men never acted negligently, and the cow’s escape was beyond their control, police said.

Charleston County sheriff’s investigators also did not file charges for the shotgun blasts, since the men owned the cow.

The bad news for the cow: The father and son told police they intended to stick with their original plan and take it to the slaughterhouse this morning.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allyson jbird.