Thursday, June 28, 2007, sometime before noon: A colorful pheasant materialized near the drive-thru window of the Burger King located at 7100 Amboy Rd. on Staten Island. Employees walked outside to greet the peacock with offerings of love and bread. Moments later, John Potts, 32, an area man with a known history of mental issues, entered the parking lot and began violently attacking the bird.
“I’m killing a vampire!” Potts shouted as he grabbed the peacock by the neck and threw it to the ground. After a brief minute of frenzied kicking and stomping, Potts fled the scene. Animal control arrived shortly after the shocking incident and surmised the peacock had sustained too many injuries to rehabilitate.The bird was put down.
Potts evaded capture for four days. A domestic disturbance at the suspect’s stepfather’s house put the cops on his trail again; during an argument, Potts threatened his step-dad with shovel-to-face action. The suspect followed this act with a leap into nearby Raritan Bay, screaming the whole way that he was infected with Bubonic plague. Potts was eventually fished out and apprehended.When pressed about the peacock, John stated the animal had “negative energy” and “came out of the darkness.”
John Potts’ mother offered a better explanation: Her son was schizophrenic and had recently gone off his meds.
The “Vampire Peacock” murder lit up every media’s “weird news” section that week.Virginia retiree Charles Johnson, who had once taught industrial arts in Staten Island, read the story and was inspired to craft a life-size likeness of the fallen fowl out of an old elm tree. Sporting real peacock feathers and a fancy inscribed plaque, Johnson trekked out to Staten Island and presented the Amboy Burger King (which also holds the distinction of being the southern-most
BK in New York State) with the statue Aug. 1. A nice capper to an otherwise insane story.
Indeed, the Burger King manager I spoke with on the day of my visit considers the entire episode pretty much closed for discussion. She was less than welcoming when she discovered I had questions about the peacock.
“Why are you writing about it now?” she asked suspiciously. “It happened over a year ago.”
“Gosh, I don’t know,” I said as earnestly as I could. “It’s just an interesting tale, and it seems more people should learn the full story.”
The squat woman continued to give me the stink eye. She fielded a handful of my questions before informing me she wasn’t actually present when the attack happened and that the manager on duty that day currently worked at another location. Dejection started to creep over my soul when the register girl pointed me to a lone figure in the dining area. Turns out the twenty-something in pajama pants lounging next to the peacock statue was an off-theclock Whopper jockey who was on the clock when the whole she-bang went down.
Pajama Pants was quite affable and forthcoming with information. He claimed to be friendly with John Potts’ younger brother and told me he immediately recognized the assailant when he entered the parking lot that fateful Thursday morning. My informant also said Potts was brandishing the same shovel at the peacock he would later use to threaten his stepfather.
“The real question, though, is how did a peacock end up at a Staten Island Burger King?” Pajama Pants pointed out the window.
“That house right over there—they’ve got all kinds of weird birds. Roosters, parrots, all kinds. The peacock probably just jumped the fence.”
His story checked out: a New York Post article written around the time of the peacock attack traced the bird to resident George Burke, who believes the felled creature was one of five baby peacocks he gifted to a family in the vicinity of the fast food eatery.The same article notes that a neighborhood child had befriended the peacock in question and nicknamed it “Chocolate” after the creature wandered onto her family’s property.
When queried about the current status of John Potts, Pajama Pants told me the assailant had been placed in a mental institution shortly after his arrest. The name of said institution was not revealed. Prior to the attack, Potts had been treated for his illness at Staten Island’s South Beach Psychiatric Center. A series of tests at Bellevue were ordered immediately after his run-in with the peacock.
You could live a thousand years and never understand what the hell John Potts was talking about when he labeled the Burger King peacock a negative energy vampire, but it only takes a second to look upon Charles Johnson’s statue and envision the whimsy of such a majestic pheasant trotting about the parking area of the Whopper’s one and only home. At least some good came outta all that weird.
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