Two men and a teenager in Florida are behind bars after they attacked a disabled Navy veteran who was trying to protect a turtle that they were torturing, according to police and the vet's family.
Gary Blough said he came upon the group in Daytona Beach as they were taking the turtle and slamming it down as hard as they could on its shell. He asked them to leave the animal alone and then tried to help the turtle back into the water.
“While I had my head turned, two of them started hitting me in the back of the head and punching me," Blough told Fox 35. "Next thing I know we’re in a scuffle and I’m fighting three of them at the same time defending myself.”
He said the group began to punch and kick him, leaving him with a severely swollen eye and a bump on the back of his head.
After other people came to see the commotion, the suspects reportedly took off, but police later caught up with them nearby, charging all three with aggravated battery and animal cruelty.
“One of its legs was up here,” said Blough to Fox 35, pointing toward some bushes next to an apartment building. “When he got slapped . . . it shot stuff outside. So, I don’t doubt the turtle died.”
Police identified the two adult suspects as Ryan Ponder, 23, and Johnnie Beveritt, 18. The third suspect was a 16-year-old boy.
Authorities told Fox 35 that when another officer went to check on the turtle later, it was gone; they believe the turtle died and sank into the water.
Blough's wife was horrified by what she saw.
“My husband, who is disabled, tried to save a poor animal's life and he gets beaten up,” said Jennifer Blough.
Ponder and Beveritt reportedly were held on $15,000 bond at the Volusia County Jail. The teen is being held at a juvenile detention facility.