Turtle scofflaw cited
Originally published Sunday, September 09, 2007
Turtle scofflaw cited
A jaywalking reptile and a cop who was tough on crime once made the front page of the Daily Breeze.
By Megan Bagdonas
Perhaps it was a sluggish
news day and editors were desperate for photos, or maybe they thought the front page looked too grim.
Either way, the quirky tale of a jaywalking turtle in Manhattan Beach was the top story in the Daily Breeze on July 7, 1956.
Splashed across the front page, above even the masthead, were photos of a turtle strolling eastward across Sepulveda Boulevard at Third Street during rush hour and of police officer Manley Fox issuing the 10-inch long reptile a citation.
Dramatic captions - such as "Almost Squashed" and "Fox Catches Turtle" - were given prominence over stories about a nationwide steel strike, a teenage mental patient who started a fire that burned 80 acres in Santa Anita Canyon and a man beaten by a thief who tried to steal the hubcaps off his car while he was still in it.
According to the article, the police officer was cruising
the highway when he saw a photographer in the middle of the thoroughfare, traffic whizzing by him.
The cameraman, Sam Greenlee, explained he was trying to help the turtle from losing a "squash game."
"He pulled in his head and I kicked him," said the photo man, who was waiting to cross when he saw the turtle in the road and did a double take. "He skidded like a hockey puck."
The officer, smiling for the camera, then ticketed the turtle for jaywalking.
"Animals have to obey the law, too. Turtles can cause traffic accidents like anyone else," warned Fox, with pencil and citation book in hand.
"I only cited him for jaywalking because he wasn't nasty about it. He just sort of crawled back into his shell."
The officer then joked that the turtle would have to "shell out" the money for the citation, otherwise, "he'll probably be in hot soup."
Claiming the city's jail was not equipped to lodge the tiny scofflaw, Fox took the turtle
home with him for "protective custody."
"He's probably a juvenile. Maybe his parents are looking for him," Fox said.
Though the turtle's parents never surfaced, dozens of families called the station and Fox's home curious about the wandering turtle.
"I didn't realize so many people had lost turtles," Fox was quoted as saying in a follow-up article four days later.
A 12-year-boy who lived on Third Street finally claimed the turtle.
No turtles, or any type of animal, have since broken the law in Manhattan Beach.
"For the 27 years that I've been a police officer here, we've never cited any turtles," said Manhattan Beach police Capt. Randy Leaf. "Sometimes a dog gets picked up for not being licensed, but they don't get the ticket, the owner does."
Leaf remained skeptical of the 1956 article's veracity.
"I seriously doubt they wrote a ticket to a turtle. You know, it sounds like it was just set up to fill space in the paper."