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November 17, 2017

Philly firefighter to pay fine in Sea Isle City seagull slaying

A Philadelphia firefighter took a plea deal and agreed to pay up on Thursday for killing a seagull at the Jersey Shore last summer.

Edward Frost, who is reportedly a 29-year veteran with the Philadelphia Fire Department, had faced two disorderly person charges, a fine between $250 and $1,000 and up to six months in jail after allegedly hitting a seagull with a shell on a Sea Isle City beach during a family vacation.

He agreed to pay a $250 fine plus court costs, NBC10 first reported.

His lawyer reportedly said on Thursday that Frost didn't mean to hurt the gull.

Last month, Frost opted for trial after initially declining a plea agreement. A judge had previously turned down his request to settle the charges by making a charitable contribution to an animal welfare organization, said Linda Gentille, manager of Shore Animal Control, which handles animal cruelty cases in Cape May and Atlantic counties.

Gentille said on Friday that some who attended the trial wanted Frost to receive a stiffer fine.

She pointed to a 2016 case in which a South Jersey man was fined $1,566 after he was found guilty in court of driving his car through a flock of seagulls in an Acme parking lot in Upper Township.

"There were 20 to 25 people there who were very upset," Gentille said. "$250 is like a slap on the wrist."

Witnesses at the beach that day said the bird was a baby attempting to feed from its mother. Frost allegedly rose from his beach chair at the 38th Street Beach on Aug. 25 and walked 20 feet toward a pair of seagulls before appearing to throw an object at them. Witnesses also alleged that Frost and others with him were laughing at the injured bird.

"Hopefully this sends a message to people that you can't go around killing animals or throwing things at them," Gentille said of Thursday's outcome.

The Sea Isle City case is not to be confused with a more notorious incident in Ocean City over the summer, in which an unidentified man speared and ultimately killed a small seagull with the tip of a child-sized umbrella pole on Aug. 14 at the resort's 12th Street beach. 

The Ocean City Police Department said in August that the man indicated to police that the seagull had been aggressive toward young children on the beach, and that he struck the bird to protect them, but witnesses disputed the man's account.

A pair of summer police officers initially interviewed the man, but a witness said that the officers admitted that they took the man's account of what happened without getting his name, and that they didn't know there was a law against killing seagulls.

The next day, Ocean City police said they were trying to find the man, who has not yet been found, Gentille said.

Seagulls are a migratory bird species and are thus protected under federal law. New Jersey law also classifies the "use of a live bird as a target" and "abandoning disabled animals in a public place" as disorderly person offenses.