Stanton County, NE – Two Honduran nationals found in possession of a dead bald eagle they allegedly shot were released from jail after federal authorities ignored calls from the local sheriff asking to have them charged.
The majestic bird – the national symbol of the United States – is federally protected by the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, FOX News reported.
Killing an eagle is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger told the news outlet that he has reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repeatedly since the two immigrants were arrested on Feb. 28, but no one will take his calls or respond to him.
As a result, both suspects have been released from jail and are out wandering free, Sheriff Unger said.
“I’m very frustrated with the federal government,” the sheriff told The Washington Free Beacon.
The investigation into the two suspects began at approximately 4 p.m. on Feb. 28, when the Stanton County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) received a report of a suspicious vehicle near the Wood Duck Recreation Area, the department said in a press release later that day.
Deputies found the vehicle parked in a field just northwest of the main recreation area.
They made contact with two males at that location and soon discovered they were in possession of a dead North American bald eagle, according to the SCSO.
“Further investigation revealed that the two had shot and killed the protected national bird in that area and stated they planned on cooking and eating the bird,” the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies contacted Nebraska Game and Parks, who responded to the scene and seized the dead eagle and the air rifle the men used to shoot it, according to the SCSO.
They have been identified as 20-year-old Domingo Zetino-Hernandez and 20-year-old Ramiro Hernandez-Tziquin, according to the SCSO.
Both men are Honduran nationals.
Sheriff Unger said the suspects did not have any identification on them other than documents from the Honduran consulate, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
They also spoke no English, according to the sheriff.
“I’m trying to be as politically correct as possible when I say this, but I don’t know what kind of third-world life they’re coming from, but it must have been pretty bad,” Sheriff Unger told The Washington Free Beacon.
Investigators managed to communicate with them using a cell phone translation application program.
Sheriff Unger said deputies are prohibited from asking about suspects’ immigration statuses, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
The duo was arrested by county officials on one misdemeanor count each of unlawful possession of a bald eagle, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
Hernandez-Tziquin was also charged for driving without a driver’s license.
The property owner of the field where the suspects were found is “very upset” about the incident, Sheriff Unger told FOX News.
Sheriff Unger said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency responsible for filing charges in relation to violations of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, but that his repeated calls to the agency regarding the case have gone unanswered, according to FOX News.
The frustrated sheriff said he has “yet to speak to a human” at the federal office in connection with the incident.
“We have cited them for a simple misdemeanor in Nebraska, which is the most that we can do,” Sheriff Unger said. “People locally that I’ve talked to are quite upset, and they wish something could be done. And the federal government is the one that really has the authority and the ability to prosecute these gentlemen to the highest degree.”
As a result, both suspects have been released from jail and are back in the community, FOX News reported.
They are due back in court on the misdemeanor charge on April 25.