Isenhour, charged with killing bird, says 'I am an animal lover'

Updated: March 6, 2008, 9:50 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- PGA Tour player Tripp Isenhour was charged with killing a hawk on purpose with a golf shot because it was making noise as he videotaped a TV show.

Tripp Isenhour

Isenhour

Isenhour was with a film crew for "Shoot Like A Pro" on Dec. 12 at the Grand Cypress Golf course. The 39-year-old player, whose real name is John Henry Isenhour III, was charged Wednesday with cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.

Isenhour apologized in a statement and said he was only trying to scare the hawk away.

According to court documents, Isenhour got upset when a red-shouldered hawk began making noise, forcing another take. He began hitting balls at the bird, then 300 yards away, but gave up. Isenhour started again when the hawk moved within about 75 yards, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Brian Baine indicated in a report.

Isenhour allegedly said "I'll get him now," and aimed for the hawk.

"About the sixth ball came very near the bird's head, and [Isenhour] was very excited that it was so close," Baine wrote.

A few shots later, witnesses said he hit the hawk. The bird, protected as a migratory species, fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils.

"As soon as this happened, I was mortified and extremely upset and continue to be upset," Isenhour said in a statement issued through his management company, SFX Golf. "I want to let everyone know there was neither any malice nor deliberate intent whatsoever to hit or harm the hawk. I was trying to simply scare it into flying away."

Isenhour said his family has adopted three cats from a local shelter.

"I am an animal lover," he said. "We ask that everyone accept my sincerest apology, and please be respectful of my family's privacy."

Humane Society executive vice president Michael Markarian said Isenhour should face charges.

"Americans have no tolerance for cruelty to animals. Such a petty, mean-spirited act against a wild bird is inexcusable and prosecutors are right to hold Isenhour accountable to the law," he said in a statement released Thursday.

Isenhour has spent two full years on the PGA Tour, both times failing to keep his card. He has won four times on the Nationwide Tour, including twice in 2006.

"He just kept saying how he didn't think he could have hit it, which I think is a stupid thing for a PGA Tour golfer to say," said Jethro Senger, a sound engineer at the shoot. "He can put a ball in a hole from hundreds of yards away, and here he is hitting line drives at something that's, I don't know, a couple hundred feet away?"

Senger said it was "basically like a joke to [Isenhour]." He said no one in the roughly 15-person crew intervened, and many later regretted it.

"It was one of those cases where there's some trepidation on whether or not they should speak up and do something," Senger said.

Senger said the killing was not captured on video. The bird was buried at the golf course and later dug up by Florida investigators.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press