Criminal report to paper spurs pigeon shoot recall

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You can't blame Shamokin Police Chief Ed Griffiths for wondering why a city resident would report concerns about drug activity to the newspaper rather than the police department.

It may have been a moment of frustration or simply an effort to be sure the concern was publicized.

Either way, the newspaper, the police and the public, through our story on Thursday, are all now aware of the incidents from Market Street and elsewhere in the city where people witnessed daylight, street-side drug deals. They also know to call the non-emergency 911 center number, 988-4539, or the county drug tip hotline, 1-800-DRUG-TIP (378-4847), to report such activity.

So, mission accomplished for our concerned but anonymous reader.

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It's satisfying to play this unique role in the community, but suffice it to say random calls or letters to the newspaper about criminal matters do throw up red flags. One particularly strange incident comes to mind from my days as the editor of our sister weekly paper in Valley View, The Citizen-Standard.

At the height of the animal rights protests over the Hegins pigeon shoot in the late 1980s and early '90s - which produced the most dramatic cultural clashes I've ever witnessed - I received a call just a week or so prior to that year's Labor Day shoot from a man in New York. He claimed his brother believed he had been reincarnated from a prior life as a pigeon, and he was on his way to Hegins for the shoot. He was dressed in full camo and was loaded with ammo, out to exact revenge on behalf of his fellow pigeons.

No joke. That's what he said.

I don't recall whether or not I covered the phone to block my laughter, but - having accumulated a lot of skepticism over the many attempts by both sides to influence our coverage - one of my first questions was: "Have you called the police?"

The answer was no.

"So, you're concerned about a possible mass murderer, but you called the newspaper, not the police?"

His tone changed, but he stuck to his story. Nonetheless, it was a rather short conversation.

I laughed it off, but not completely. Knowing the local police chief pretty well, I decided I'd sleep better knowing I reported it to him - just in case. He was glad I called, but also enjoyed a good laugh.

No such character appeared at Hegins that year - at least not that I'm aware of. Maybe he was there but scrapped his plan for violence. I guess only the pigeons knew for sure.

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for each Saturday edition. Reporting of community concerns is always welcome. Call 644-6397 (NEWS) or e-mail

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