September 4, 2014
Police Chief Apologizes After Decapitating Pet Chicken Over Zoning Ordinance

Ashley Turnbull of Minnesota said that the Atwater Police Chief Trevor Berger has apologized after decapitating her son's pet chicken. The police chief's actions outraged thousands who raise backyard chickens this past week when the story went viral. His apology comes two weeks after he killed the chicken over a zoning violation. The Turnbulls were in violation of an ordinance that prohibits chicken and other fowl within the Atwater city limits. Ashley said that when her son Trevor was given the chicken for his birthday, she was unaware of the ordinance, but says she did receive a notification last month that she was in violation.

While it is still unclear why exactly the chicken had to be killed on the premises, the chief of police claimed he was trying to protect the children of a nearby school from the loose chicken. The chief also said he was unaware that the chicken was the beloved pet of five-year-old Phoenix Turnbull. "I did not have any clue that this was Phoenix's pet," Police Chief Berger told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I feel terribly about it." Turnbull said that the police chief did apologize to her son for killing the chicken he was given as a birthday present. On her Facebook, Ashley said that she felt Berger's apology was sincere.

The police chief went to the house after a neighbor complained about a chicken loose in the yard, according to The Star Tribune. Berger recounts trying to get the chicken back into its coop for about ten to fifteen minutes. "I feel like I made a good effort to get it back in," the police chief told Twin Cities. The chicken was clubbed to death with a shovel he found on the property just feet from the fenced in area, according to reports.

Berger claimed the loose chicken was a public health issue and initially didn't regret killing the chicken. He also claimed he was unaware that he had left the chicken's head behind when he removed the dead body. He originally said he didn't feel it was much different than disposing of a rodent. The police chief said that he didn't want to shoot the animal because there were children playing nearby, and he felt it was safest to not use his firearm. Ashley came home to find the chicken's decapitated head near the fenced area. She had planned to dispose of it and break the news gently to her son. Unfortunately, a neighborhood child saw the entire incident and told Phoenix before she could.

In an interesting twist, Wednesday night, the police chief was supposed to present a proposal that would allow chickens in the city, because of the strong movement towards small and urban farming that is sweeping the country. The police chief said, "I feel badly Atwater is getting this kind of attention because of me. It's a wonderful town. I just wish I'd known it was a pet." According to the West Central Tribune, Chief Berger felt so badly about killing the boy's pet that he was choking back tears at Wednesday night's council meeting. The proposal Berger, which would allow each city resident to own up to five chickens, will be discussed by council on October. Turnbull used the word "anguish" to describe how she was feeling when some residents accused her of bullying Chief Berger.

Berger believes, in retrospect, he should have simply given the Turnbull's a citation, which may have led to a fine. Turnbull feels, in retrospect, she should have taken the warning more seriously, but also believes there should have been more of a process before the police chief took such drastic measures towards the young boy's chicken. As of Wednesday night, Turnbull said she considers any troubles between her family and Police Chief Berger resolved.

[Photo via Twin Cities]