Zoo theft suspect dies in fiery crash

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Downed trees, a broken sidewalk and a destroyed fence are left in a yard in the 500 block of East Main Street in Broussard after a man fleeing the Zoo of Acadiana with stolen birds was killed there in a fiery crash early Wednesday.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Downed trees, a broken sidewalk and a destroyed fence are left in a yard in the 500 block of East Main Street in Broussard after a man fleeing the Zoo of Acadiana with stolen birds was killed there in a fiery crash early Wednesday.

A New Iberia man suspected of stealing three exotic birds from the Zoo of Acadiana early Wednesday died after crashing his SUV during a chase with police, Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou said.

Yongcun Su, 35, whose 2011 BMW SUV caught fire after he drove through a ditch and a stand of trees in the middle of a Broussard resident’s yard, later died at a hospital from his injuries, officials said.

Su was found near his car after apparently being ejected from the SUV, Decou said.

George Oldenburg, who owns the zoo, called police at 2:05 a.m. to report a man was breaking into the veterinary clinic at the rear of the zoo.

Oldenburg said when he saw the SUV near a residence at the rear of the zoo, he called 911 and stayed on the phone with a dispatcher while he watched the man carry bird cages to his car.

“He drove off very slowly,” Oldenburg said.

“Then he took off” when he spotted Broussard police officers, he said.

Decou said that when his officers arrived at the zoo, just off U.S. 90 in Broussard, “the suspect vehicle was leaving at a high rate of speed, at which time officers attempted to catch up to the suspect on (East Main Street).”

“(Su) was traveling at such a high rate of speed, we lost sight of him and later found that he’d crashed out,” Decou said.

Police dispatchers received a call about a fiery vehicle crash in the 500 block of East Main Street. Police found Su’s car on fire and in the yard of a Broussard residence, Decou said.

“He went straight where the road slightly curves, crossed the centerline and went off the left side of the roadway, then entered a small wooded area and crashed into several trees, which caused his vehicle to catch fire,” Decou said.

Oldenburg said one of the stolen birds, a Senegal parrot, was also killed, perishing in the fire.

He said an African Ringneck parrot, named Baby Blue, survived the flames and the high-powered jets of water sprayed by firefighters. He crawled out of the BMW and flew off to the top of a tree where he remained Wednesday night.

Oldenburg said he is offering a reward for anyone who returns Baby Blue to the zoo, though he didn’t want anyone putting themselves in danger by climbing the tree where Baby Blue is perched.

The biggest loss could be a Caique named “Kiwi,” a favorite among kids, who was hanging on to life Wednesday night at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge. Oldenburg said doctors were trying to stabilize Kiwi, pumping him with fluids and administering antibiotics.

“Kiwi could not fly, and when the vehicle caught fire,” he couldn’t escape, Oldenburg said. “Kiwi crawled out of the car on one leg, blood coming out of his eyes.”

“I made the decision to pull out all the stops to save this bird,” he said.

Oldenburg and Decou said they didn’t know why Su wanted the birds. Oldenburg said the three were worth “a couple thousand dollars,” and were worth more than run-of-the-mill birds because they were trained.

“I want to express our sincerest sympathies for the family of this person,” Oldenburg said. “What happened to him was tragic.”