Friday, May 18, 2007

Bill Clinton dies in Police Custody

Emu Dies In Police Custody


The Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Bill Clinton, a 6-foot emu on the run nearly a week, died Thursday after Carrboro police captured him outside a nursing home.

The cause of the flightless bird's death was in dispute: The manager of the Orange County Animal Shelter said police Tasered him. But a police spokesman said officers didn't use a Taser stun gun or tranquilizers. He said the bird injured himself as police tried to load him into a truck to take him to the shelter.

"My guess is it did something to its neck," Capt. J.G. Booker said.

Bill Clinton's flight was the latest and most spectacular of a string of Triangle-area emu escapes that ended in death.

During the past few years, there was been a push for emu farming in the area; the birds provide meat, oil, leather and feathers.

However, many ventures failed, according to Sam Groce, a Chatham County agricultural extension agent. Some people kept the emus as pets, while others let them go when the farms failed.

Myra Charleston of Tennessee, spokeswoman for the American Emu Association, said emus often escape if they are upset about something. She said her group works with police to help them capture escaped emus.

"You have to know how to handle them and come from behind," she said.

Bill Clinton took off Saturday from his 5-foot pen in southern Orange County. Neighbors tried to capture him, owner Pat Sanford said, but it takes at least six people to corral a 125-pound bird with dinosaur-like claws.

On Tuesday, an emu was spotted near Cole Park Plaza in northeastern Chatham County. A man lured it into a neighbor's back yard with Cheerios. The next morning the bird jumped the 4-foot fence and took off.

Sanford isn't sure that emu was Bill. Chatham is a long way for a flightless bird to travel from Orange County, she said.

However, she was sure that Bill was the emu found Thursday on Smith Level Road in Carrboro. A police officer and Robert Nekoranec, a Carrboro animal control officer, tried to capture him.

He did not go quietly. Bill resisted and cut Nekoranec's hand and elbow, Booker said.

The officers "lassoed or subdued the emu," he said and tied him. Bill thrashed about and injured himself, Booker said. Two television helicopters swirling above could have added to the animal's stress, he added.

Jess Allison, the manager of the Orange County Shelter, said the emu arrived unconscious and unresponsive. She said Nekoranec told her the bird had been Tasered.

"It came in and it was in a sedated state," Allison said. "I don't know if was Tasered or tranquilized. But I know they used some kind of chemical or physical restraint."

Veterinarian Claudia Sheppard tried to revive the bird but it died soon after, Allison said.

Sanford, who rescued the bird seven years ago to give her other emu, Janet Reno, company, said Bill Clinton was a happy bird. "He loved watermelon and grapes," she said. And he always ate her red flowers.

Still, Sanford said she understands the officers had to think of the community's safety.

"I would much rather pick up the phone and find out he's dead than (hear) he's injured someone," she said. "I am glad, though, that he had as good of a life as he had."

Since Bill's escape, Janet has been sad, Sanford said. She has been lying down and sleeping a lot.

[click here] for comments made on the Hartford Courant forum on the above piece.

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