Deputy’s gator wrestling violated policy

Orlando Sentinel (Florida)

VOLUSIA COUNTY---A deputy sheriff violated department policy when he tried to wrestle an alligator in a Deltona apartment-complex parking lot.

Deputy Sheriff Keith Baughman, 39, was bitten on the left leg Thursday night in the parking lot of Brightside Apartments on Caribbean Street in Deltona. He was in stable condition Friday at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

The first deputy on the scene followed procedure and called for a licensed trapper, said sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught. When Baughman arrived, "he decided to try to handle the alligator," he said.

After placing a towel over the 8-foot gator's head, Baughman got the on animal's back, Haught said. The alligator was able to throw him off and bit him. At that point, Deputy Jason Stickels fired several shots that did not kill the gator, Haught said. A trapper removed the alligator and killed it.

Baughman does not face any serious discipline because of his actions, but there likely will be a supervisor's review, Haught said. "It was just a bad decision, that's all." Law-enforcement officers who encounter a problem alligator should not hesitate to use their guns to kill it, state wildlife officials said Friday.

"The best thing to do is to leave them alone," said Joy Hill, spokeswoman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In some cases, officers can lasso a gator and tie it to a tree until wildlife officers or trappers can arrive to deal with it, she said.

Copyright 2008 Sentinel Communications Co.

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