Three drones shot down; pigeon shooters quit early
EHRHARDT, S.C. ––Losing three video drones to gunfire, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK) nonetheless believes it won what might be termed the Third Battle of Broxton’s Bridge, South Carolina.
SHARK had apparently already delayed the start of a scheduled four-day, six-station pigeon shoot by two days when on February 10, 2018 several men believed to have been associated with the Broxton Bridge Plantation hunting ranch began firing on the drones with rifles.
Eight shooters remained to the end
Putting up drones enough to maintain a continuous video record of the pigeon shoot, which SHARK believes was held in violation of South Carolina law, SHARK observed that the pigeon killing ended early on the fourth scheduled day, with just eight shooters left.
The first Battle of Broxton’s Bridge will be re-enacted at the Broxton Bridge Plantation on March 2, 2018, billed as the 153rd anniversary of the Civil War clash, which actually occurred on February 1, 1865.
The Civil War battle, fought more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Emancipation, ended 130 years of slavery at the Broxton Bridge Plantation.
Escaped slave was hunted for sport
The plantation had on July 5, 1853 been scene of one of the most notorious lynchings of the pre-Civil War era, and one of the most notorious “canned hunts” ever.
A suspected runaway slave identified only as Joe, age 22, was captured, held for several days by planter Robert Grant, then turned over to Thomas Motley and William Blackledge, who brought their dogs from more than 100 miles away to hunt Joe for sport.
Motley and Blackledge allowed Joe to “escape” only to be pursued and repeatedly attacked by the dogs over the next day and a half.
Similar crimes were committed throughout the Confederate states well into the 20th century, but the “Broxton Bridge Horror,” as newspapers almost immediately dubbed it, led to the almost unprecedented trial and subsequent hanging of both Motley and Blackledge,
The dogs were variously identified in an eyewitness account published 30 years later as “beagles” and “hounds,” but were described by South Carolina Supreme Court Justice John Belton O’Neall in his sentencing decree as “equally fierce and ferocious as Spanish bloodhounds,” ancestral to pit bulls.
Perps were hanged
Motley and Blackledge became two of just 11 white men known to have been executed for killing a black person in states that allowed slavery before the Civil War, and the only perpetrators known to have been executed for murder by dog.
A failed attempt was made, allegedly by the Motley family, to bribe the local sheriff with $50,000, equivalent in purchasing power to $1.5 million today. Rumors then circulated that an armed mob might free Motley and Blackledge.
South Carolina governor John Lawrence Manning responded by personally leading the 4th brigade of the state militia 40 miles to the scene to ensure that the hanging was conducted as ordered. Outraged slaveholders ensured that Manning lost his 1854 bid for re-election.
Publicity for the first Battle of Broxton’s Bridge annual re-enactment contends that Confederate resistance at the bridge in 1865 significantly delayed the Union army in advancing from Savannah, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina during the last months of the Civil War.
Union military history, however, records the battle as a transient skirmish, just another among hundreds that gradually brought slavery in the U.S. to a belated close. The fighting, such as it was, ended with fewer than 200 malarial Confederate troops abandoning 12 cannon and their outflanked fortifications.
Dogs roust wounded pheasants
Founded by ancestors of current owner G.D. “Jerry” Varn soon after they emigrated from Germany, nine generations ago, the 7,000-acre Broxton Bridge Plantation has for several decades now been chiefly engaged in recreational animal massacres.
The Broxton Bridge Plantation web site advertises opportunities to shoot deer, ducks, pigs, bobwhite quail, and pheasants, who are thrown from a 65-foot tower to be shot as they descend while attempting to fly. Those who reach the ground still alive are rousted by dogs and shot at again.
The Broxton Bridge Plantation also hosts pigeon shoots. Twice, in 2012 and in 2018, SHARK has found out about the pigeon shoots to attend, bringing crew from Illinois and New Jersey. The results each time have been similar.
Children dumped wounded pigeons into trash cans
SHARK founder Steve Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that the three drones hit by rifle fire at the Broxton Bridge Plantation on February 10, 2018, while legally flying over nearby public property, were among the least expensive of the SHARK squadron, costing about $1,000 each to replace.
Those drones and others of greater lens power, videotaping from farther away, together collected and transmitted to the ground extensive documentation of what SHARK spokesperson Stu Chaifetz summarized as “the cruel treatment of wounded pigeons by young women and men used as workers by the plantation. The birds were picked up and dumped into garbage cans where they were left to die a slow and painful death.”
SHARK and Last Chance for Animals posted the video at Birds Tortured, Drones Shot in South Carolina Pigeon Shoot – YouTube. While most of the children appeared to be in the range of 13-15 years old, some seemed to be younger, and one girl may have been under 10 years old.
“What kids did to birds was torture”
“What these kids did to the birds was torture,” Hindi alleged. “It was also illegal, as it violated Title 47 , the South Carolina cruelty to animals statute.”
“Shooting a drone is absolutely illegal under FAA regulations,” Hindi added, “and we will make sure Broxton Bridge Plantation is held accountable. It was also incredibly reckless and illegal of [the] Broxton Bridge [shooters] to fire a rifle across a public road.”
Added Chaifetz, “Colleton County sheriff’s deputies witnessed the drone being flown over public space, and were present as the drones were being shot. SHARK will be asking for charges to be filed against [the alleged perpetrators], as well as filing complaints with the FAA.”
The second Battle of Broxton Bridge
SHARK on February 12, 2012 reported routing fewer than two dozen pigeon shooters at what might be termed the second Battle of Broxton Bridge.
On that occasion the shooters, while in retreat, allegedly gunned down a SHARK drone helicopter camera platform moments after takeoff.
“Not only will we take pictures of all the shooters,” SHARK had pledged before arrival, “but we will identify many of them and ask them, rather publicly, why they enjoy slaughtering animals in such a barbaric manner.”
Field & Stream blogger
The SHARK challenge attracted the notice of Field & Stream blogger Chad Love.
“Animal rights activists, a remote-controlled helicopter, and a bunch of guys with shotguns. Now that’s a combination with some definite potential for the creation of a brand-new shooting sport,” Love mused in a February 9, 2012 web posting, apparently encouraging the shots at the drone that followed.
(See Field and Stream Advocates Shooting Down SHARK’s Aircraft.)
Amid the publicity, the second Battle of Broxton Bridge attracted only about 20 pigeon shooters, about a fifth or even a sixth as many as the site preparations indicated had been expected.
For three days high winds kept the SHARK helicopter grounded.
Ran from cameras
On the fourth day, Hindi recounted, “As soon as we began to prepare to launch our aircraft, the pigeon shooters ran away,” much as did the Confederates at the first Battle of Broxton Bridge.
“They got into their cars and left Broxton Bridge rather than be caught on video!” Hindi laughed. “First they tried to intimidate us by sending out the police and a lawyer. We ignored them, as what we were doing is perfectly legal. Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave. We decided to send the copter up anyway, flying it on the far side of U.S. 601 from the Broxton Bridge Plantation.
No response from sheriff’s department
“Seconds after it hit the air numerous shots rang out, from shooters apparently firing across the road,” Hindi said.
Crashing on the road, the drone was quickly retrieved by SHARK volunteers, as were the three shot down on February 10, 2018.
SHARK in 2012 filed a complaint with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department, but the department took no action in response.
SHARK drones have often been shot at before, and sometimes before have been hit by gunfire, including on September 11, 2015 at a pigeon shoot hosted by U.S. Senator James Inhofe at Altus, Oklahoma.
The only damaged drone SHARK was unable to retrieve and either repair or use for replacement parts was hit near the Wing Pointe Gun Club in Hamburg, Pennsylvania on January 2, 2011. That drone remained caught high in a tall tree above the gun club for years. Whether it is still there is unknown.
Drone video by SHARK both during and after a November 9, 2017 pigeon shoot at the Wing Pointe gun club in Hamburg, showed adult “trapper boys” not only dumping wounded pigeons alive into a barrel, but also burying many still living pigeons with a tractor shovel.
The 2017 SHARK video from Wing Pointe, posted at Pigeons Brutalized, Buried Alive at Pennsylvania Pigeon … – YouTube, depicts these and other actions which clearly would have been illegal before the Pennsylvania anti-cruelty law was updated by HB 1238, dubbed “Libre’s Law,” in June 2017.
HB 1238, including an apparent blanket exemption for pigeon shoots, called “Shooting activities not otherwise prohibited under this subchapter,” was strongly endorsed by both the Humane Society of the U.S. and Humane Pennsylvania, a federation representing local humane societies.
Jamaka Petzak says
My dad always said, “The apple don’t fall far from the tree.” Looks like an appropriate caption here. Sharing to social media, with disgust, outrage and seemingly unending sadness.
Stu Chaifetz says
Broxton Bridge personnel used walkie talkies to coordinate their criminal efforts. The suspects include Broxton Bridge Plantation owner Jerry Varn, and former Williston police officer Joey Patrsourakos. There was also an individual who monitored the drone activity from a pickup truck parked near the SHARK flight team. He told the others when and where the drone was in the air so they could shoot at it.
The police report about the drone shootings, which is available upon request, states, “Mr. Varn also advised that he did have people in the woods, but they were only there to shoot stray birds that got away from the shooting area.”
Mr. Varn’s statement is absolutely false. SHARK monitored and recorded Broxton’s radio traffic, and that audio record is now crucial, damning evidence for both local criminal investigators, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
In the audio, some of which is available on the newly released video, Jerry Varn asks to be told when the drones either take off or land. Shooters talk about getting into position, and the spotter repeatedly tells the others the status of the drone, and when it’s in the air.
It should be noted that the drone shootings did not stop SHARK from accumulating extensive video documentation of extreme animal abuse, which was conducted by young teens and even pre-teen children, many of whom were female. SHARK will be contacting appropriate agencies and child abuse experts regarding the cruel and violent environment in which these children participated with the full knowledge and consent of adults.