Each year, Susan Secrest knows spring is here when two Canada geese return to the Charleston city park behind her West Ashley home. To her great pleasure, the same couple returned this year.
Then last week, while she was in her backyard, she heard "frantic squawks and flapping" coming from West Ashley Park. She rushed to look, afraid that an alligator had one of the geese.
Instead, to her horror, she saw three city parks employees throwing things at the geese. To Secrest, one of the geese seemed to be trying to fend off the attackers. The other splashed excitedly nearby in the water.
Secrest ran to get binoculars for a better look. When she returned, she said, she watched one of the park workers jump into the water, grab one of the geese, wring its neck and stuff it in a bucket. The three tried to get the other goose, but it took off, she said.
The workers then drove off laughing on a park cart with the dead goose concealed under netting in the bucket, Secrest said.
"It nauseated me," she said.
As the workers drove off, Secrest called City Hall. Soon parks officials and police arrived. One of the three workers ran into the woods and couldn't be located. The other two, according to the police report, were "present, along with the evidence."
The two were identified as Rubeli Santiazo and Ceaser Chuy, both of North Charleston. A ticket on a charge of animal cruelty was issued to both and a court date was set for May 5. Police were still looking for the third suspect, identified by police as Clemente Reyes-Cortes, 43, of North Charleston.
Steve Livingston, director of Parks and Recreation for the city, said the three men were temporary workers hired through a local agency to do grounds work in the park. He said the three "will never work for the city again."
Joseph Hughes, owner of Staffing 2000, the firm for which the men worked, said he "terminated all three on the spot." Although police said Ceaser Chuy did not have identification, Hughes said they were Mexicans with proper papers. Nevertheless, he said of the incident, "I'm embarrassed about it. I'm sorry it happened."
Livingston said the 150-acre park along Church Creek is one of 15 to 20 of the city's parks to have a fairly extensive natural area. He said the killing of the goose was "a very unfortunate event. ... I feel violated. I feel like the city was violated.
"You can only surmise that they were looking for dinner."