3 arrested in shooting of heron at Seattle park
Seattle police arrested two men and a teenager Sunday afternoon on suspicion of animal cruelty after a witness called 911 to report that the three had shot a blue heron in Meadowbrook Park.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Stephen Johnson was taking photos in Seattle's Meadowbrook Park on Sunday afternoon when he confronted two men and a teenager armed with a scoped rifle. Moments later, he heard a gunshot and saw a heron fall from a tree into a pond.
According to police, Johnson, 42, was able to identify the suspects and helped rescue the injured bird.
Seattle police arrested two men and a teenager on suspicion of animal cruelty. Two suspects — 19 and 22 — were booked into the King County Jail, while the third suspect, a 17-year-old, was booked into the King County Youth Services Center, according to Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt.
The heron was taken to the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, where it was in serious but stable condition on Monday, said PAWS spokeswoman Mary Leake Schilder.
The gunshot shattered the heron's humerus and caused soft-tissue damage in its right wing, she said. The earliest that PAWS' wildlife veterinarian, Dr. John Huckabee, can perform surgery to remove bullet fragments and repair damage to the heron's wing is Friday, though that will depend on how well the bird is doing, she said.
It's too early to tell whether the heron will survive or be able to fly again, Leake Schilder said. Male and female herons don't have distinctive markings, so the heron's gender is not yet known, she said.
When Johnson confronted the three suspects who were armed with a rifle, they told Johnson they were just goofing around, he said. Johnson said Monday that moments after he walked away, he heard a single gunshot and saw a heron fall from a tree into a pond. Johnson said he yelled at the suspects, who quickly drove off in a silver minivan.
Johnson called 911 around 1:20 p.m. and later identified the three suspects, who were pulled over by a Seattle police officer in a convenience-store parking lot on Sandpoint Way, according to Witt and Johnson.
Witt said officers later located a rifle at a house in the 11000 block of Alton Avenue Northeast where the 17-year-old and a friend had hidden it.
The injured heron escaped capture by swimming to a small island in the middle of the pond, Johnson said. After going to the convenience store to identify the suspects, Johnson returned to the park, where he and others phoned friends to find a boat, he said.
"It was really a community gathering to figure out how to rescue the bird," he said of the group that gathered on the shore.
A friend of a friend arrived at the park with a canoe and Johnson and two other men paddled out to the island around 5 p.m., he said. Johnson said he tossed a sheet over the heron and scooped it up for the return trip to shore.
With its head covered, the heron "just kind of submitted. It never tried to fight. The poor thing was just scared," Johnson said. "Once the bird was caught and in the canoe, there was a lot of excitement, a lot of joy."
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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