According to KMSP-TV Fox 9 News, Atwater, MN Police Chief Trevor Berger has apologized amid a firestorm of controversy after he used a shovel to beat and decapitate a five-year-old child’s pet chicken. He reportedly killed the chicken while responding to a call by a neighbor complaining that the animal had escaped from its pen. Though ownership of pet chickens is illegal in Atwater, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a bill tonight that could overturn the chicken ban.
Earlier this year, five-year-old Phoenix Turnbull was given a duck and five chickens for his birthday, which he had been keeping as pets, feeding and playing with them daily. After a neighbor complained about the presence of a chicken coop on the Turnbull’s property, police contacted Phoenix’s mother Ashley Turnbull on August 7 and told her to get rid of the animals. However, given the fact that the Atwater City Council was at that time and still is scheduled to vote on an ordinance that could legalize chicken ownership shortly thereafter, Turnbull decided to hold off on sending away the pets until after the upcoming vote.
On August 16, Chief Trevor Berger responded to a neighbor’s complaint that one of Turnbull’s chickens had gotten loose from its pen and was, according to a police report cited by Minneapolis Star Tribune, “roaming free in the back yard.” Chief Berger responded to the scene personally and attempted to corral the pet, but failed. Citing frustration over his inability to catch the chicken and public health concerns as his rationale, the officer reportedly grabbed a shovel and beat and decapitated the pet chicken in view of a neighbor and his young daughter. He then placed the dead chicken, which was found lying next to its severed head, by the family’s chicken coop. He left without leaving a note or notifying Ashley Turnbull, who was not at home at the time, as to what had taken place.
In a conversation with KMSP-TV Fox 9 News, Ashley Turnbull described her son’s relationship with the chickens, “They’re like puppy dogs to him. They’re his babies. He’s had them since they were itty-bitty chicks. He feeds them every morning and every night.” Five-year-old Phoenix is devastated about the death of his beloved pet. Ashley Turnbull filed a formal complaint against Chief Trevor Berger on August 20.
Ashley Turnbull’s fiance Chris Gordon described Berger’s initial reaction to the family’s complaints in comments to TwinCities.com, “I said, so you came to our home and killed our chicken with our shovel? He said, ‘Yup. Any questions?’ That’s the thing that makes me mad.” In early comments reported on by West Central Tribune, Berger described the controversy as silly and indicated that he had taken the unusually brutal action in an effort to get “some results” for the angry neighbor. However, Berger’s tone changed after reports of the chicken beheading began to spread. On Tuesday, he visited the Turnbulls and apologized personally.
Reflecting on the incident in comments to KMSP-TV Fox 9 News, Chief Trevor Berger said, “I wish I would’ve just used the power of the courts and done a citation.”
According to NewJersey.com, in August of this year, a Wharton, New Jersey man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after allegedly decapitating chickens.