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Contrite worker admits to killing duck

In the past, plenty of ducks milled about the service department of the Clearwater Toyota dealership without incident. But this duck was different.

Dealership employees are always able to easily shoo away the ducks. But for some reason Monday, this duck wouldn't budge.

Maybe it was the rain.

"It was a pain. It was back inside my shop," said Darrin Caldwell, who manages the parts and service departments at the dealership at 21699 U.S. 19. The duck was so large its beak reached Caldwell's waist.

So Caldwell, 31, said he picked up a large metal object and swung it at the animal in an attempt to force it out of the room.

The first swing missed. The second swing hit the duck in the neck.

"I didn't set out to harm the duck," Caldwell said Wednesday.

The duck tale ended with the victim in a box after Caldwell said he "put it out of its misery."

The Humane Society of North Pinellas got an anonymous phone call and went with the Clearwater police to the dealership Monday night to investigate.

When questioned Monday, Caldwell denied any involvement. But before a Wednesday morning meeting with Humane Society officials, Caldwell met with about 50 of his co-workers and confessed to killing the Muscovy duck.

"It's the stupidest thing I've ever done," a contrite Caldwell said in his office Wednesday. "I swung at the duck to get it out of the shop. It was the wrong thing to do. It's embarrassing."

Caldwell said he was scared when first questioned by officials, explaining his reluctance to confess.

"I used poor judgment and didn't tell the truth," he said. "I panicked and that was the wrong thing to do."

Humane Society director Rick Chaboudy said he will file a report with the state attorney's office, and Caldwell could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor under the animal cruelty statute. He could be forced to pay a fine, do community service or be placed on probation.

"Some people consider (the ducks) a nuisance but nonetheless, you can't do that to them," Chaboudy said.

Dealership owner Scott Fink said he would not discipline Caldwell, whose seven years there give him the longest tenure of any employee.

"We all make mistakes and I think he just made a mistake," Fink said.