A volunteer working to protect sea turtle nests is recovering from a gunshot wound after a dispute with a man who said he disliked sea turtles.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Sunday that the 72-year-old volunteer is recovering at home after he was shot in the hip late Friday during a routine volunteer shift in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
Witnesses said the dispute began when Michael Q. McAuliffe, 38, approached Stan Pannaman and another volunteer. McAuliffe said he did not like sea turtles and began pulling stakes from the perimeter of the protected nest.
Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and Pannaman's fellow volunteer, described a surreal scene on the beach as he and a number of volunteers set off to monitor turtle nests about to hatch near El Mar Drive.
"There was a man sitting on a bench at the entrance of the beach who was giving off profanity," Young said. "He got up and went toward one of the nests and very aggressively started pulling the stakes out."
According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, McAuliffe hit Young and then Pannaman pulled out a gun, which McAuliffe took.
Pannaman turned quickly enough that the bullet hit him in the left hip, Young said. "The guy freaked out when he saw the wound," Young said. He said McAuliffe threw the gun into the sand. "He was saying, 'I can't believe I did this. I can't believe I did this.'"
McAuliffe is being held at a Broward County jail without bond on multiple charges including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. It was unknown if he's hired an attorney.