Hank Schoenmeier, a sanitation supervisor for the City of El Segundo, was relieved to learn Saturday that four of his employees were back on the job after narrowly escaping a kidnap attempt.
Well, the incident Friday wasn't quite that serious. In fact, Schoenmeier figures that one of the employees--whom he described as "a very friendly girl, always looking for adventure"--probably jumped willingly into the intended getaway vehicle. A passing motorist witnessed all this and telephoned police, who arrived in time to spoil the caper.
The victims were goats, ranging in age from 2 to 6, who have been employed by the city for two years to eat weeds and brush growing in a storm drain basin across from Los Angeles International Airport.
Schoenmeier figures the abductors intended to eat the animals: "They were probably about 15 minutes away from being burritos."
Two of the alleged goatnapers escaped, police said. Two others--Felipe Ortiz, 20, of Inglewood, and Fernando Galvan, 22, of Los Angeles--were booked for investigation of a charge that police admitted is rare in an urban area--grand theft of a caprine animal.
"The goats are getting babied now," Schoenmeier said Saturday. "They'll get big and fat. The neighbors have decided to take them on as pets and throw them their garbage."
It took him two years to persuade City Manager Arthur Jones to buy the goats at $50 apiece to control the growth of brush and thereby reduce the fire hazard in the basin, Schoenmeier said. The city also has two burros grazing at another location. Schoenmeier said the six animals save the city about $15,000 a year, the cost of hiring work crews to clear the area.
"The program is very successful," he said. "And the goats require very little care. I just make sure there's plenty of water for them and go out and pet them once in awhile."
Describing himself as "very original," Schoenmeier named the goats--three females and a male--A, B, C and D. And, in honor of Jones and Public Works Director Bill Glickman, his two bosses, Schoenmeier has named the two burros Art and Bill.
To prevent another theft attempt, Schoenmeier has bolstered the security of the goats' fenced-in area by installing a heavy-duty cable to replace the chain that the abductors allegedly cut.
Police claim to have a preponderance of evidence. As the goats were being wrestled into the getaway car, the animals were "jumping around and chewing the seats," Sgt. Mike Lunsford said. "They also were making a small deposit--we prefer to think of it as marking the vehicle for evidence."