SAN DIEGO -- The bruises on his face soon may heal, but the broken heart of Victor Vasquez -- the Birdman of East Village -- may take a while longer.
"Sydney, the day before he died, I told him, 'You're the reason I wake up in the morning," Vasquez said this week of his 31-year-old medium sulphur-crested cockatoo from Papua New Guinea, one of his three feathered companions.
"He was just an amazing soul."
The bird was killed during an attack on Vasquez, which he said occurred Wednesday in front of the San Diego Central Library. Vasquez said he was punched, kicked and knocked to the ground by two unknown assailants.
While Vasquez was being beaten, two of his birds got loose from their cages. One of them, Sydney, flew into the path of a passing trolley and was killed.
Vasquez, 54, had become known as the Birdman of East Village for his daily walks around downtown and Balboa Park with a tower of three birdcages strapped to his back. He and his three-tiered backpacks and squawking birds had become a fun and quirky sight in the year and a half he's lived downtown, and he was featured in a San Diego Reader article last March.
On Wednesday morning, he said, he slipped on his birdcage backpack and headed out of his small apartment on Market Street to the library to return a rented DVD.
He dropped off the DVD in a slot without entering the library, and said a security guard told him to move along. Vasquez said he was leaving when a young man sitting on a nearby wall said something like, "Yeah, get out of here with your dirty clothes."
Words were exchanged, but Vasquez said he walked away. When he saw the young man heading toward him, he called 911. The San Diego Police Department reported receiving the call at 9:47 a.m.
Vasquez said the man struck him, knocked him down and was joined by a female companion who also hit and kicked him. He said both assailants appeared young, around 18 years old.