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 user 2005-08-30 at 10:03:00 am Views: 63
  • #12502

    Two men accused of freeing gator in lake
    LOS ANGELES – Two men, one a
    former Los Angeles police officer, were arrested for allegedly
    conspiring to release an alligator in a small lake, prompting the city
    to bring in reptile wranglers, keep crowds at bay and impose heavy
    patrols, police said Wednesday.

    A tip from the public led to the
    arrest of Anthony Brewer, 36, and Todd Natow, 42, following raids at
    separate homes in the San Pedro area, said Jim McDonnell, assistant
    chief for the Los Angeles Police Department.

    Police said Brewer gave the
    alligator — named ”Reggie” — to Natow, a former LAPD officer, who
    then released it in the South Los Angeles lake about 20 miles south of

    Natow, who started with the LAPD in 1984, left the department in 2001 for reasons that weren’t clear, McDonnell said.

    Councilwoman Janice Hahn said attempts to capture the gator and to patrol the lake cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

    ”This beautiful lake is not a
    place to dump your animals when they grow too large for your back yard
    or aquarium,” she said at a Wednesday news conference.

    Brewer was arrested Tuesday at a
    home in which officials found evidence of an alligator habitat,
    photographs of alligators, narcotics and two live snapping turtles,
    police said.

    Natow, who was arrested early
    Wednesday, had numerous animals, including three alligators, four
    piranha fish, one rattlesnake, three desert tortoises, six desert
    tortoise eggs and one scorpion. He also had six marijuana plants,
    officials said.

    The confiscated animals were in the care of the state Department of Fish and Game.

    Meanwhile, the lake alligator
    remained at large. Three wrestlers and a cameraman from Gatorland in
    Orlando began scouring Machado Lake on Tuesday.

    The Florida crew offered to do the
    job for free (travel expenses not included), and even will drive the
    reptile back to Gatorland if the city decides not to keep it. The
    attempt follows an unsuccessful search last week by Colorado-based
    gator wrangler Jay Young, who tried for two days and was paid $1,600.

    ”We have a 110-acre park where
    alligators live a long, happy, sheltered life,” Gatorland spokeswoman
    Michelle Harris said. ”We think he would make a nice fit.”

    The gator — who’s been nicknamed
    ”Carlito” and ”Harbor Park Harry” — could be housed in an
    exhibition area with two other gators ”captured from notorious
    backgrounds,” Harris said. One was seized in Miami and one is known to
    eat dogs, she said.

    ”They offered to take it back,
    but we haven’t decided that’s the right thing to do,” Hahn said.
    ”After all, it’s an L.A. gator.”

    The creature was first spotted
    Aug. 12, and officials initially believed it was a close alligator
    relative from the Amazon called a caiman.

    Crowds gathered around the cordoned lake, binoculars in hand, in hopes of a sighting.

    Some lobbed tempting treats,
    including tortillas, french bread, jelly doughnuts and raw chicken.
    Vendors began selling T-shirts with an alligator logo and the tagline:
    ”You will never catch me!!”

    Television crews staked out the
    lake, but the gator has generally been camera shy. Rarely have people
    seen much more than its eyes poking above the water line in recent days.

    Tim Williams, Gatorland’s
    so-called gator guru and dean of gator wrestling, said all the
    attention visitors have been lavishing on the lake creature won’t lure
    the reptile. What will, he said, is grunting out a gator call.

    ”The eyes glow red at night and
    when you grunt ‘em, it’s just a gruntin’ call,” said Williams, who
    claims to have spent 30 years wrestling gators. He demonstrated the
    call by making a rapid guttural noise that sounded like someone trying
    not to throw up.

    ”We’ll try to hunt him at night,
    get close, either get a noose or grab him,” Williams said. ”He’s not
    that big, and then we’ll go from there.”