OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two cousins ages 9 and 12 face animal cruelty charges after police said they broke into a community garden at Alameda Point and bludgeoned 11 chickens to death with a shovel.
Both boys are accused of breaking into the chicken coop at the "Growing Youth Project," which helps to teach teenagers about nutrition and healthy living through raising the chickens and gardening.
Along with breaking into the coop sometime between the afternoon of June 11 and the next morning, the boys are suspected of breaking into the garden's tool shed and stealing the shovel, police detective Sgt. Wayland Gee said.
Their names were not disclosed because they are juveniles. Both were released after they were given a Notice to Appear on animal cruelty charges in Juvenile Court, according to investigators.
"It's a lie. It's just a lie," said Kyle Barner, an aunt of the boys.
Barner said the boys were staying at her residence at Alameda Point on the weekend the chickens were killed. But she said the accusations against them stem from a dispute she has with a neighbor, who Barner said told police the boys were responsible.
A patrol officer arrested the older boy, who lives in Oakland, outside Barner's residence on June 13 after witnesses allegedly identified him.
"He said, 'I didn't do it,"' Barner said. "'I did not do anything."'
Gee said the boy admitted involvement and claimed other kids encouraged him to break into the coop.
The younger boy was arrested the next day at his Hayward residence after witnesses allegedly identified him through a photo lineup.
Police said they believe the two boys were the only ones involved in the break-in.
The community garden is run under the auspices of the Alameda Point Collaborative, which provides housing and other services to people who are disabled or who were once homeless.
Teenagers work at the garden and sometimes sell eggs from the chickens to raise money, said Doug Biggs, the collaborative's executive director.
Eleven chickens were discovered dead at the coop after the break-in. Six others were found still alive and one was missing, Gee said. The shovel was nearby and showed evidence that someone had used it to kill the birds.
Most of the chickens that were killed were pullets and almost ready to lay eggs, Biggs said.
Since the break-in, the collaborative has been working with the Alameda Police Officers Association to replace the birds, he said.
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