Florida authorities arrested a man accused of throwing a live alligator through a restaurant window.
According to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission report, investigators have identified Joshua James of Jupiter, Florida, as the man who threw a 3m reptile at Wendy last fall.
He faces three charges related to the incident: aggravated assault with a lethal weapon; illegal sale, possession or transportation of an alligator; and petty theft. James, 24, was taken into custody and held in a Palm Beach County Detention Center on Monday, first reported by NBC partner WPTV.
The driver, wearing a baseball cap backwards, drove to the driveway window for a large drink, shortly before 1:30 am on Oct. 11, according to a surveillance report.
“As the attendant looks at her with his back to the window and stands at her check-in, a male driver reaches inside his car in the passenger area and throws an alligator from his car into the driveway,” the report said.
The photograph in the report shows the apartment of an American alligator spread out on the floor of a fast food restaurant kitchen. According to the report, the officer who responded to the incident caught the alligator, taped its jaws “for safety reasons,” and released it into a nearby canal.
According to the National Zoo, the average female American alligator grows to be eight feet in length. The average male grows to just over 11 feet in length. The alligator thrown into Wendy’s driveway was only three and a half feet long.
The officer later reviewed surveillance footage from a nearby gas station, which showed that the same driver acted “suspiciously” a few minutes before the incident.
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“The driver got out of the car by pulling out of the door window instead of opening the door,” the investigator notes, adding that the driver and passenger later “continuously” look through the driver’s side window at something inside. …
When the authorities approached him, James admitted that he picked up the alligator on the side of the road, drove to Wendy’s and threw the beast through the driveway.
A judge on Tuesday ordered James to stay away from all of Wendy’s restaurants so as not to own any weapons, undergo a mental health assessment and limit his contact with pets of his mother’s dog, WPTV reported.
James’ parents described him to the TV channel as an outdoor enthusiast and a harmless prankster, adding that he considered the famous crocodile hunter and conservationist Steve Irwin as his idol.
Ed and Linda James told TV that their son played a prank on Wendy’s employee he knew.
“It was just a stupid joke that has now turned into this one; this is stupid, ”his mother told WPTV. “He’s a joker. He does these things because he thinks it’s funny. ”
The American alligator is listed as a “species of particular concern” in Florida, according to the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, which notes that “state law prohibits the killing, pursuit or possession of alligators.”
Nationwide, the American alligator population “reached an all-time low in the 1950s, largely due to market hunting and habitat loss,” according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. But in 1987, the alligator – a member of the crocodile family – “was declared fully recovered, making it one of the first success stories of an endangered species,” according to the government.
However, the American alligator is a federally protected species, according to the Fisheries and Wildlife Service, which notes:
While the American alligator is safe, several related animals – like several species of crocodiles and caimans – are still in trouble. For this reason, the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to protect alligators as classified by the ESA as “endangered due to similarity in appearance”. Thus, the Service regulates the hunting of alligators and the legal trade in animals, their skins and products made from them, as part of efforts to prevent the illegal removal and sale of endangered “similar” reptiles.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the state has an average of about five unprovoked alligator bites per year.
Since 1948, 22 people have died in these “unprovoked bites” in Florida.