Plea bargain hearing resolves turkey case
In a plea bargain hearing in Edgartown District Court November 13, Jonathan Haar of Chilmark admitted to sufficient facts to support a charge of resisting arrest, rather than face two counts of assault and battery on police officers. Mr. Haar's confrontation with the officers occurred after one of the Chilmark police officers shot and killed a wild turkey, on Mr. Haar's property, on Father's Day in June. In exchange for his admission, Mr. Haar got six months' probation.
According to reports by Chilmark Patrolman Jeff Day and Special Police Officer Matthew Gebo, the incident occurred on June 15 when they responded to a call at 12:26 pm from Alissa Keenan of Bear Baby Equipment Rentals. She reported that an aggressive male turkey had attacked her and her driver, Altino DaVila, while the two were trying to deliver baby rental equipment to 27 Old Ridge Hill Road.
Officer Day reported that after the turkey tried to attack him and Officer Gebo, he drew his service firearm, a Glock 40-cal semi-auto, and fired two shots at the bird. The wounded bird ran from the driveway to the edge of the front lawn, where Patrolman Day pursued it on foot. He said he fired two more shots when he was within four feet of the turkey, then fired one more shot to dispatch the bird.
In the meantime, hearing the gunfire, Mr. Haar and his wife Linda, who live next door, came running through the woods, protesting the shooting. They had named the turkey "Tom" and had been feeding it since it was an orphaned chick. Mr. Haar's protest over the turkey's death led to an altercation between him and the two police officers, who arrested him on charges of assault and battery and resisting arrest, according to Officer Day's report.
Mr. Haar was taken to the Dukes County Jail and subsequently charged with two counts of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. He had no prior record.
"We reached a plea bargain, in an effort to achieve a balance. I appreciate he had very strong feelings for this turkey he had essentially raised as a pet, " said Cape and Island Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard, in a follow-up phone call on Tuesday this week. "We were trying to balance that and the fact that he has no record with the fact that whatever your passions are, you can't assault police officers. We tried to consider all of those interests in an effort to resolve the case in a just manner."
If at the end of the six-month probationary period, Mr. Haar has not been arrested or charged with another offense, the charges against him will be dismissed, Ms. Marshard explained.
In response to a phone message asking for comment, Ms. Haar replied by email to The Martha's Vineyard Times on Tuesday.
"Jonathan and I are very relieved and thankful that this traumatic experience is over and that the crazy charges against Jonathan are rightly being dismissed," she wrote. "We remain very troubled, as do many of our neighbors and friends and animal rights advocates on Martha's Vineyard, that armed policemen can come into a residential neighborhood, unannounced, and shoot an animal, especially when there are people very close by and put in danger.
"We hope the town of Chilmark investigates this police conduct and assures greater safety for residents and visitors alike. While this was very traumatic for us to witness this killing of an animal, it was far worse for the turkey," Ms. Haar concluded.
After the turkey was shot and killed, it was placed in the Chilmark Police department's freezer. Chief Timothy Rich confirmed this week that it is still there.
"One of officers is talking to the game warden about the best way to dispose of it - however, the case is open for the next six months, so until it is completely adjudicated, it's kind of in limbo," he said.