February 2, 2003
By Jon Caldara
For the Boulder Daily Camera
BOULDER A city made famous by its high-profile, unsolved murders. This reputation became even worse with the recent murders in downtown Boulder. How can we, as a community, sit idly by as a killer or, god forbid, killers lurk among us?
The murders took place last week in the heart of our community, the normally peaceful Pearl Street Mall. Two pigeons, among the most distinguished and prestigious birds in North America, were found dead. Authorities speculate the cause of death to be poison.
The case is likely the first violation of Boulder’s new bird-sanctuary ordinance, which makes murdering a pigeon, or any “unnecessary molestation” of a bird, a crime.
The crime scene rocked the normally non-violent area as the victims were hauled away in tiny little body bags. Well, sandwich bags. The names of the victims have been withheld, pending notification of next of kin.
During the debate on whether Boulder should become a bird refuge, many mocked the city’s effort to protect these innocent lives. Now, after becoming the epicenter of yet another nationally publicized crime, no one is laughing.
Although I still have misgivings about outlawing the molestation of birds (what goes on between a consenting adult and a consenting bird in the privacy of their own home is no one’s business), the need to solve this murder is paramount.
As reported in the Camera last week, authorities do have a witness. One pigeon, who survived the murder attempt, is hanging on to life. The bird, a male, was brought to a rehabilitation center with head injuries, seizures and vomiting. Quickly, medical men of mercy resuscitated him, pumped his stomach, sedated him with Valium, removed the poison by charcoal treatments and then medicated him with Pepto-Bismol. (I am not making this crap up.) Expensive, yes, but who can put a price on a pigeon’s life?
The remains of the other two murder victims have been frozen in case later tests are needed to see if they were poisoned with the pigeon killer Avitrol. (Again, not making this up.) There are only two labs in the country that can test for the drug, also not cheap.
Investigators hope the surviving pigeon will be able to identify and testify against the perpetrator who committed the homicide. The bird is now in witness protection and undergoing counseling.
How strongly will the Boulder police investigate this murder? You’d think detectives would be pulled from the other murder cases, or at least from busting frat parties, to crack the case before leads grow stale.
However, when I called the city to check on the recovering victim’s condition and to contribute to his relief fund, I was told that the city isn’t investigating the murder spree at all! Two pigeons murdered, and no investigation! A killer walks among us, and the police refuse to act! Who’s next? A starling? Your child’s parakeet?
I was told that Boulder’s city attorney declared that the bird-sanctuary ordinance was passed not to actually prevent the senseless murder of birds, but to “send a message.” It was to “educate the public” about birds and may not be completely enforced.
Imagine my shock. Would our city leaders clutter our law books merely to “send a message” on some pet issue of theirs? What are we, the United Nations for bird resolutions? Tough talk, but little action.
I asked if the city would ever investigate such a crime. The answer was maybe, if enough pigeons were murdered in the same place. How many pigeons must be killed before the city would act? Well, they wouldn’t say.
What an insult! What is the use of creating laws if the city staff blatantly refuses to enforce them? The City Council must demand a full-scale investigation of this crime or repeal the law.
The message to potential pigeon rapists is all too clear: Boulder will turn a blind eye to your depravity.
Of course the crime may not have been by the hands of men. We don’t know if the victims were related. Many theorize this might have been a double murder-suicide, a crime of passion, with one pigeon catching his lover with another bird. Still others believe the damn things just flew into a plate-glass window. Without an investigation, we may never know.
And, if sanctimonious, goofy laws aren’t enforced, so people can see just how silly and expensive they really are, we’re only going to get more of them.
Jon Caldara is president of the Indendence Institute in Golden. He lives in Boulder.