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Michigan man goes on wild bird chase

Jessica Cuffman • Jan 5, 2014 at 10:50 AM

A man who chased his pet bird onto an empty boat Friday evening faces several criminal charges after taking his children with him and leaving his puppy to wander across the ice.

Patrons at a nearby bar called Sandusky police to the Jackson Street Pier Friday evening when they were out back and heard screams coming from aboard the Goodtime I, according to a police report.

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Witnesses told police they saw several people walking around on the boat and when they yelled to see if they were OK, the people on board went to the upper deck into the captain’s wheelhouse.

The gate to the dock was locked, but officers were able to climb the fence and found Jason Toppa, 35, of Westland, Mich., upstairs in the wheelhouse.

He refused to come out, and officers ordered him out at gunpoint.

After handcuffing him, police found his two 11-year-old children also in the wheelhouse.

Toppa told police he was sitting in his van in the parking lot with his children, when he opened the door and his pet bird flew out and went onto the boat.

Then he said he got scared, so he grabbed his children and all three climbed onto the boat through a window.

Officers asked him about the 8-foot drop from the dock to the ice, and Toppa said he was scared his bird would die in the cold air.

“Jason was asked about the safety of his children, and he still appeared more worried about his bird rather than his children,” Officer John Powell wrote in his report.

Police also found a small pit bull puppy that belonged to Toppa walking on the ice between the boat and the Chesapeake Lofts.

Officers tried to coax it to safety, but when it wouldn’t come, Officer Mark Gilliam went onto the ice to retrieve the dog.

Police took the children, the dog and the bird to the police station to wait for a family member from Michigan to come get them.

Toppa was charged with two counts child endangering, criminal trespassing, obstructing official business and criminal damaging. He was booked into the Erie County Jail.

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