The story of a hostile, feral turkey that prowled the neighborhood of Old Ridge Road terrorizing residents with beak and spurs ended on Father’s Day, June 15, with its fatal shooting by Chilmark police officer Jeffrey Day.
Responding to a distress call about an aggressive turkey, Officer Day shot and killed the bird, though not until it had chased him and his partner officer Matthew Gebo around the yard and onto the hood of a police cruiser respectively.
Neighbor and apparent turkey enthusiast Jonathan Harr heard the shots and emerged from nearby woodland to confront the police. He admits to taking a swing at Officer Gebo.
Last Thursday the case of the commonwealth versus Jonathan Haar was closed as well. Two charges of assault and battery were dismissed and a lesser charge of resisting arrest was continued without a finding, after Mr. Haar admitted to sufficient facts.
Assistant Cape and Islands district attorney Laura Marshard said the decision involved weighing several mitigating factors.
“[Mr. Haar] has no prior record,” she said, “and his emotions were governing his actions, out of concern for what he considered a pet.”
On the other hand, she said it is unacceptable to assault police. And she was dubious of Mr. Haar’s testimony that he felt his wife was in danger from her proximity to the shooting.
“I’m not sure I find it credible,” she said.
Ms. Haar told the Gazette she and her husband are relieved to be finished with the ordeal but she remains angry at how it has been portrayed.
“Wild turkeys can be a pain in the neck,” she said, “but it’s not just about a turkey. It’s about civil rights and police shooting on private property unannounced on a Sunday morning. Is that the kind of act that will continue on the Island?”
Regardless, the court decision effectively wraps up the episode, coincidentally in time for Thanksgiving. Yet some questions remain about the blood-soaked turkey saga.
For example, how many bullets did it take to kill Tom, as Mr. Haar had named the bird?
Officer Jeffrey Day says four.
In his report he states that he fired two shots in the yard of 27 Old Ridge Road, then pursued the injured turkey into the woods and fired twice more, killing it.
But Mr. Haar, the neighbor who had nurtured Tom from an orphan poult, counted five.
“Officer Day went into the woods on my property and shot a fifth time,” declared Mr. Haar in a sworn affidavit filed with the Edgartown district court, “he reemerged dragging a dead bloody turkey by the neck and laughing, saying ‘It’s done.’ ”
Mr. Haar said and his wife began shouting and running to the scene after hearing the first two shots.
“Whoever was discharging the firearm continued nonetheless,” he said in the affidavit. “I was running as fast as I could through the woods, ducking bushes in a panic and flushed with adrenaline, as two of the gunshots were so close that I could see the muzzle flash.”
Entering a clearing, Mr. Haar said in his statement he encountered Officer Gebo who was barring his way, and swung at him, in an effort to get to Officer Day.
A diagram depicting the incident was submitted to the court by Mr. Haar’s attorney.
“I was distraught,” Mr. Haar continued, “just standing looking at the turkey when someone behind me put his arm around my throat and I had trouble breathing. I felt my knees pushed from behind and I was thrust to the ground.”
Speaking to the Gazette yesterday, Ms. Haar denied that her husband had intentionally assaulted the police and claimed he was forced to go to hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in his arrest.
It remains unclear what will happen to Tom’s body. After the shooting, the bullet-riddled corpse was wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the Chilmark police department freezer, where it has stayed since June.
”The turkey’s still in the freezer,” confirmed Chilmark police chief Tim Rich this week. “It’s on ice.”
Chief Rich said the after the shooting the Haars had inquired about taking the turkey for a decent burial. However, the game warden advised that it is illegal for the Haars to possess a feral turkey, which is federally protected, alive or dead. As Chief Rich explained, the options are for a licensed hunter to come to the police station during season, tag the bird and then transport it, or for the police to dispose of it themselves. For the moment the policy of the chief is to wait and see.
“We can get rid of the thing but you couldn’t take it to do anything with it,” he said, “We’re keeping it for now, it’s protocol.”
Another question which remains largely unanswered is can a turkey, however blustery, pose any real threat to a human being?
Shortly after the shooting it was revealed that Tom and his group had been terrorizing parts of the rural up-Island neighborhood beginning in the fall and through the spring.
It was so tough for Deborah Morelli of Shadbush Hollow that she would park her car one step away from her front door because they surrounded her house.
She said she always knew if Tom was there because of the particularly menacing way his feathers would scrape along the driveway gravel.
Further up the road, Brian Mackey, scrambling to escape an attack, whacked the bird with his car door several times before speeding off only to see, seconds later, Tom in hot pursuit in the rear view mirror.
Tom was well-known to an employee of United Parcel Service who would make regular deliveries to Old Ridge Road in the summer months, but would avoid exiting the van.
The UPS worker, who did not want his name used, said that on rainy days he would simply push the deliveries out the window in sealed sacks, rather than face Tom’s wrath.
Roger Greeley, another resident, took to carrying around a baseball bat for protection. He even offered an escort service for visiting residents of a guest house on his property.
“They are dumbs as rocks,” he told the Gazette, “[but] I knew I had an attack turkey on the premises.”
There have been no reports from the area of human injury from a feral turkey.
But there is one more question. Did the hostility die with Tom? Neighbors spoke of an errant flock led by Tom. Did he breed? Will his aggression be passed on?
Holly Nadler is living in the Greeley guest house where, with the departure of seasonal residents, the neighborhood is quiet in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
She reported a sighting above the house of a flock of turkeys, while she was gardening.
“It was like the preview for a horror sequel,” she said. “I felt I was being stared at, so I turned around and about 15 yards down the road was this large turkey, in profile. The sun was low behind him and he slowly turned to face me. I just got this shiver.”