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San Diego's 'Birdman of East Village' assaulted, cockatoo killed

Gary Warth, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

The cages popped open. Ginger, a Goffin's cockatoo from Australia, flew into a nearby tree. Between blows, Vasquez said he could see Sydney flying toward the trolley.

He remembers a woman saying Sydney had been run over. Vasquez managed to get to his feet and walk to the tracks. He scooped up Sydney's mangled body.

"I can't get the image out of my mind," he said through tears.

Vasquez said police arrived but did not believe his story until they saw security camera footage. He said he hopes witnesses will come forward to help identify the assailants.

He was able to retrieve Ginger and also still has Coocooberry, a red-lored green Amazon parrot about 20 years old.

"They're my life," he said about his birds, which have helped him deal with some tough times.

Vasquez was homeless off and on for about 10 years and said he is HIV positive and has PTSD from injuries sustained in an encounter with police during a demonstration in San Francisco in 1989.


Sydney was his favorite of the three birds, and even through his grief, Vasquez is able to smile at the bird's memory.

"He gave me so much," he said. "That's what I have to hold on to. He was so intelligent. He loved to be held and praised. Sydney was my best friend."

The case has been assigned to a detective and is under investigation, but no other information about the suspects was available Friday.

(c)2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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