11/14/2007

Man killed by gator while fleeing police

By The Associated Press

MICCOSUKEE TRIBE INDIAN RESERVATION, Fla. — A man who jumped into a lake to flee police was killed by an alligator more than 9-feet long, officials said Tuesday.

The man, whose name has not been released, was allegedly burglarizing a vehicle in the parking lot of the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center on Thursday. He ran when police arrived at the scene, said Dexter Lehtinen, one of the tribe's police legal advisors.

Tribal police divers searched for the man that night, then again Friday morning and afternoon. During the third dive, the body was recovered. It bore alligator teeth marks on the upper torso.

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department said the cause of death was an alligator attack.

An accomplice in the alleged burglary has been arrested. The Miccosukee tribe, which is not obligated to follow Florida's open records laws, declined to release his name. Without a name, the Miami-Dade state attorney's office was unable to comment on whether the man has been charged.

The alligator believed to be responsible for the death has been killed. A coroner was scheduled to examine the 9-foot-3 reptile Wednesday for human hair or skin, said Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator Products, which is storing the gator in a cooler for now. It will then be incinerated or buried, he said.

A sign at the lake warns people: ''Danger Live Alligators.'' Wood said in other alligator habitats, signs also warn people not to feed the creatures.

''They become too comfortable being around humans and they equate humans to food,'' Wood said. ''Generally if a gator sees a person, he goes the other way, he goes down, he hides. This gator was aggressive, not afraid of people.''

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