ST. PETERSBURG — At a bend in the road near Joe's Creek, birds sing and dogs bark. But the rooster no longer crows.
Most mornings, residents would hear the cries of Gilman the Rooster as he sat atop a roof greeting the day. But on Saturday, they awoke to shots from a .45-caliber handgun. Several of them. Boom, boom, boom, boom!
Bobbie Horton heard it. Deanna Schwartz did, too. Then she ran into her 5-year-old's room and peeked through the blinds.
That's when she saw him. A guy who lived in the neighborhood was standing next door, and she heard him declare, "I got him!"
The him being Gilman.
The guy yelling victory being Eric Nicastro, 30, who lives at 5000 74th St. N.
As turns out, Nicastro had been asking recently who owned the rooster. Gilman and the pack of chickens he leads had lived in this unincorporated neighborhood of modest houses near the creek for a few years, but no one could say who owned them.
So Saturday, Nicastro took a BB gun and went after the young auburn cock with a proud red comb, according to authorities. At some point, he upgraded to the handgun and chased the rooster into a neighbor's yard. That's when the shots came and the crows ended for good. Nicastro threw the body into the creek, said Jim Bordner, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Witnesses who heard the shots called authorities. Deputies arrived about 8:30 a.m. They saw Nicastro walking down the street, carrying his gun in a case. They didn't arrest him, but did recommend a charge of improper exhibition of a firearm to the state attorney's office.
Nicastro couldn't be reached for comment.
Neighbors felt the goodwill of the community shatter with the gunshots.
Schwartz, 33, said she couldn't believe someone would shoot an innocent animal just feet from where her son was sleeping.
"He was like the neighborhood alarm clock," she said.
The chickens appeared a few years ago when a neighbor apparently let them roam free. They pecked in the grass, nestled into little beds and laid eggs.
Britani Farley, 16, remembered Gilman as a chick. When he started crowing, she named him after her favorite country singer, Billy Gilman, who landed his big hit One Voice in 2000 at age 12.
At night, the chickens would roost in an oak at James Dominic's house. In the morning, Gilman would drop onto the roof and start crowing.
Lately, the flock has fallen on hard times. A hen was killed by a dog, a younger rooster disappeared. And now Gilman. "I broke down in tears," said Farley. "They're my pets."
Gale Tinklepaugh, 62, said the rooster made her feel like she lives in the country. Her house is painted barn-red, and wagon wheels lean against the front fence.
"You hear the rooster and it made you feel good," she said, her eyes a little wet.
As the sun set Saturday, bread crumbs remained on Dominic's roof.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or email@example.com.