Florida man shot protecting sea turtles

File photo credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr Commons

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. (KRON/MEDIA GENERAL) — A Florida man is recovering after being shot while trying to protect sea turtle nests.

Investigators say 38-year-old Michael McAuliffe was at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach on Friday when he came upon an area that was cordoned off for the protection of sea turtle nests. That’s where he encountered two men: 72-year-old Stan Pannaman and 64-year-old Doug Young, who is president of the South Florida Audubon Society.

McAuliffe allegedly began yelling at the men saying, “I hate sea turtle people. You’re all (expletive) crazy.” He then started pulling up stakes and pulling down tape marked to protect sea turtle nests, which Pannaman and Young were volunteering to protect.

McAuliffe and Young got into a tussle and that’s when Pannaman, who is an ex-Marine reportedly pulled out a handgun with hopes of diffusing the situation. Pannaman told the Sun-Sentinel that McAuliffe settled down when he saw the gun, so he put the gun back in his pocket, only to be tackled seconds later.

As the two men wrestled, McAuliffe ended up holding the pistol and pointing it Pannaman, stating, “I’m going to shoot you with your flare gun.”

“Sir, it’s not a flare gun. It’s a real gun,” Pannaman replied.

McAuliffe pulled the trigger, striking Pannaman in the hip.

“After he shot me, the guy looked like he was in shock,” Pannaman told the Sun-Sentinel. “He actually headed toward me and said, ‘How are you? Are you OK?’”

Pannaman replied, “Sir, you shot me. How could I be OK?”

The bullet ended up lodged in Pannaman’s left buttock. Doctors plan to surgically remove it once swelling goes down.

McAuliffe was jailed without bond on charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and battery on a person 65 or older.

Despite the experience Pannaman said he is not discouraged from protecting sea turtles, and he adds, “But really, monitoring sea turtle nests should not be a life-threatening experience.”

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