Finest and Bravest Join Forces
In Pursuit of Fugitive Parrot
There’s something reassuring in knowing that with all the challenges the NYPD and the FDNY face these days, they still somehow find the time to pull family pets out of trees. The incident to which we’re referring started shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 21, when a call came through 911 that there was a person in a tree at Fifth Avenue and 90th Street.
Since Ralph Lauren’s Fashion Week show was in progress at that moment under tents at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum just down the street, Lieutenant Michael Courtney, the 19th Precinct’s third-platoon commander, figured the person in question was a photographer.
“I assume it’s paparazzi wanting to get pictures,” he explained. “Elizabeth Hurley is supposed to be there, Billy Joel. I go over.”
However, when Lt. Courtney arrived, he found not a pushy photojournalist, but rather a well-dressed (if somewhat distraught) woman in her early 40’s, who was trying to coax an iridescent green Amazon parrot named Tiki down from her perch high atop a tree on 90th Street, about 100 feet east of Fifth Avenue.
“She’s standing there yelling, ‘Come down, Tiki! Come down, Tiki!'” Lt. Courtney recalled. The woman explained to the officer that Tiki was her trained parrot. “She’s exhausted and scared,” the woman told him. “She’s never been up that high before.”
The victim, whose name and address the gallant cop never got, implored him to do something. “I
explained that the resources really aren’t around to get up a tree to get a bird,” Lt. Courtney said. But the woman wasn’t giving up so easily; according to Lt. Courtney, she cried, “I’ll stay here until the morning if I have to! That’s my baby up there!”
The lieutenant, moved by her distress, called the Central Park Precinct-which, he recalled, owned long poles that could be useful in retrieving a parrot. But the precinct told him there were no personnel available for such a task.
Next, he called the Center for Animal Care and Control, but they were also fully booked. “In between, I was running off to handle radio runs and coming back, because we were backlogged,” Lt. Courtney said. “We had a lot of radio runs and not enough cars available at that time, so they were stacking up.”
However, he was sensitive enough to appreciate that Tiki was something more than just a festively dressed pigeon-she was a companion . Indeed, she’d been riding on her owner’s shoulder when a loud noise apparently spooked her and sent her flying off into the tree. “It’s not just a bird,” the cop noted. “It’s a well-loved pet.”
So, in between radio runs, Lt. Courtney paid a visit to the firehouse on East 85th Street, Company Truck 13. “I said, ‘Listen to the story and tell me if you want to do it, if you can.'” He then told them the tale of Tiki. “They kind of liked it,” Lt. Courtney said of the firemen.
Around 9:45 p.m., the lieutenant returned to the scene with a bunch of firefighters in full regalia driving a bucket truck. They doused their lights so as not to interfere with the fashion show. Using tuna fish and tree branches, they spent about 20 minutes trying to coax the bird to come to them. (The lieutenant believes that Tiki’s owner, rather than the firefighters, supplied the canapés.) But just as they were maneuvering the cherry-picker in order to bring the bird to safety, Tiki flew off and sought refuge in another tree, this one outside the aptly named Church of the Heavenly Rest.
As the world well knows, New York City’s uniformed forces have faced greater challenges than a fugitive parrot at a Fashion Week event. The undaunted crew moved the truck to the bird’s new location and started the rescue mission anew.
“We got a nice little crowd that was gathered there, of dog walkers and people from the show,” Lt. Courtney reported. “This time, they were successful after about 10 minutes. We got a little round of applause, which was very nice for the firemen.”
Gets Local Action
While it’s not particularly shrewd to commit a crime around the corner from the 19th Precinct on 67th Street, between Lexington and Third avenues, it’s doubly dumb to do so when, at the same time, you happen to be across the street from the Seventh Regiment Armory. But a couple of perps did just that on Sept. 16 around 11 a.m., while the armory was being patrolled by National Guard troops on account of the threat-level orange terrorist alert.
The perps in question-a couple of homeless gentlemen-visited the courtyard of an apartment house located between 66th and 67th streets on Lexington Avenue and absconded with two large gray garbage containers on wheels.
“My assumption is that they were planning to use them for cans,” observed Detective Steve Petrillo, the 19th Precinct’s community-affairs officer. “As they start to run down Lex, the super from the building sees them and yells out something about, ‘Stop these guys!'”
The hapless garbage-can thieves didn’t realize that stationed on both corners of Lexington were National Guard guys with rifles. “So they end up running directly into the two National Guard guys and are apprehended with the rifles,” Detective Petrillo explained.
The detective said he didn’t know whether the soldiers leveled their weapons at the suspects on the chance that they were Al Qaeda members, but he doubted it. The mere sight of guardsmen with automatic rifles was enough to bring the perps to heel, Detective Petrillo pointed out.
Rather than sending them to Camp Delta in Guantanamo for interrogation, the National Guard turned their prisoners over to the NYPD, and they were processed for petit larceny in the conventional way.
Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.