Nov. 13, 2007 — -- Authorities in Florida are saying very little about an incident last week in which a suspected car thief reportedly fled from police into a small pond on an Indian reservation and was eaten by an alligator.
ABC News' South Florida affiliate WPLG reported that Thursday the Miccosukee Police Department, which handles law enforcement for the Miccosukee Indian Reservation, along with K-9 units from the nearby Sweetwater Police Department, responded to a call about two men breaking into vehicles in the parking lot of the tribe's 300-room resort and casino.
Police reportedly captured one of the men, but the other dived into a nearby retention pond — ignoring a sign that warned about dangerous alligators in the pond.
Eyewitnesses told WPLG that bystanders on the bank of the pond saw the gator, which the station reported was nicknamed "Poncho" by resort employees, and urged the man to swim back to shore, but he eventually screamed before disappearing underwater. The body of the man, who has not been identified by police, was discovered by divers Friday, 50 feet below the water's surface.
A dispatcher for the Miccosukee Police Department told ABC News that the department could not comment and that an investigation into the death was ongoing. A lieutenant for the Sweetwater Police Department referred all questions to the Miccosukee police.
The alligator that authorities believe is the one that killed the man was trapped and killed, and is now being held at All American Gator in Pembroke Park, Fla.
Under Florida state law, any alligator that kills a person must be destroyed.
Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator, told WPLG that the Miami-Dade County medical examiner hold him to hold the reptile for inspection. Neither the medical examiner's office nor Wood was available for comment, but Wood reportedly told the local station that it's not uncommon for a gator to behave defensively.
"Some gators have a nasty disposition, and he was a nasty gator," Wood told WPLG. "He seemed to have no fear of people, which indicates that he was fed."
Though alligators have a reputation for attacking Florida pets, they also occasionally attack humans. Since 1948, 275 unprovoked human attacks have been reported in Florida, with 17 resulting in death.
More than 18,000 alligator nuisance complaints were filed in Florida last year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and 7,000 gators were removed by authorities.
In October, an 83-year-old woman in Savannah, Ga., bled to death from wounds she suffered in a gator attack. It was the first fatal alligator attack in that state since 1980. The eight-foot alligator was captured by resource officers and killed.
Also in October a Florida man was sentenced to die for a 1998 crime in which he left a 5-year-old girl in a section of the Florida Everglades known as "Alligator Alley." When the girl's body was found, her skull was crushed and an arm was missing.