COLUMBIANA - Jose D.E. Ramos IV woke up Thursday morning to his relatives advising him he was wanted by city police for killing two ducks earlier this week at McDonald's, according to the officer who issued a warrant for his arrest.
Officer Richard Whitfield said Ramos came to the police station on South Vine Street shortly before 8 a.m. to turn himself in on the animal cruelty charge.
The 21-year-old Leetonia resident provided a written statement that began with him wanting to tell "his side of the story."
Whitfield said that while Ramos admitted to driving over the two ducks in the restaurant parking lot Tuesday, it was not with the intent to kill.
"He said when the woman motioned for him to stop he interpreted it as to go and so he drove forward slowly and didn't accelerate until after hitting the ducks," Whitfield said.
The woman he was referring to was one of the two witnesses who told police what happened that day. She had said she was motioning for Ramos to stop so she could get out of her vehicle and shoo the ducks away. Shortly after, she said that Ramos pulled forward over the ducks, killing one and seriously injuring the other. The injured duck also died.
Whitfield said whether the intent was there or not, Ramos still admitted to killing the ducks and the second degree misdemeanor charge still stands.
The two Swedish ducks belonged to Don Snyder, who lives next door to McDonald's. Snyder is in the process of selling his residential property for an Advance Auto Parts store expected to be finished later this year, if the city council approves a zoning change requested by the planning commission.
Snyder said the pet ducks, named Sophia and Melvin, were two of the five enclosed on his property and Sophia had only recently laid 12 eggs, which are not hatched yet and likely won't survive.
Melvin was found and bought by Snyder at the Rogers Community Auction and the other ducks came to him in the mail from a duck farm out west, he said.
The ducks got loose and wandered over to the parking lot when a company employee opened the gate to conduct a survey and soil testing there for the planned store, he said.
"They've been pets since they were hatched and it is quite a loss. If it was an accident that would have been one thing, but for someone to deliberately run over your animal, it's just really, really cruel," Snyder said.
He added he doesn't blame the survey company because they were unaware the ducks were pets, and likely assumed they were just wild and happened to be on his property at the time.
Snyder purchased the ducks before they were hatched and has taken care of them the last three years.
"They are very domestic. They ride in the car, come in the house ... they know their names and come to you when you call them. They eat out of your hand," he said.
He explained the Swedish ducks' tame nature and friendly demeanor make them easy to keep as domesticated pets.
Taller and heavier than other breeds, they cannot fly and tend to be more "helpless," he added.
He also said a permit is not required for their keeping because they are not a protected American breed.
Snyder learned of Sophia and Melvin's passing from McDonald's and Duke and Duchess gas station employees who were familiar with them, he said.
Pam Carroll, his aunt who lives in New Middletown, learned of the incident from the newspaper article and, like others who heard or saw the event, is upset with what happened.
"Not only the whole family is upset the ducks were killed, but it was the manner in which they were killed. I truly am very disturbed and concerned. That was unnecessary to be smashed all over the road," she said.
She and Snyder are both thankful the people who witnessed the incident did "what was right" and notified the police, leading to Ramos' arrest.
"I'm really happy that everyone is stepping up and acknowledging what is happening and not just pushing it under the rug. Animals are helpless," Snyder said.
He added that he and relatives were aware of Ramos' arrest and the statement he provided to police on Thursday.
Police Chief Tim Gladis also wished to thank the witnesses who aided the police investigation.
"The people who came forward to help and the McDonald's employees were the key to getting this guy. Without their statements, we may never have caught him! Columbiana is a great community and the people here really support their police department," he said in an email to this reporter Thursday afternoon.
The chief also posted a thank-you on the department's Facebook page.
Whitfield said Ramos is scheduled to appear in Columbiana County Municipal Court this morning on the one count of animal cruelty and faces a maximum of 120 days in jail and $750 bond.