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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 19, 2003 at 20:11:58:
TAMPA TRIBUNE (Florida) 19 March 03 College Student Wrestles With Gator Theft Charge (Stephen Thompson)
Clearwater: On a dare, a St. Petersburg College student climbed the fence at an alligator exhibit at a miniature golf course one night in December and jumped into the water, investigators say.
None of his drinking buddies had asked him to bring any of the specimens back to the car, but he did, investigators say.
Philip Andrew Bryant, 19, of Clearwater, was arrested Tuesday, two weeks after Clearwater police detectives released a surveillance videotape taken at the entrance to Congo River Golf, 20060 U.S. 19 N.
Bryant was charged with grand theft and burglary, as was Brett Lassetter Clark, 21, also of Clearwater. Clark was the group's designated driver, but because he drove Bryant to the course and then drove him and at least one 3- to 4-foot alligator away, he is considered a getaway driver, Detective Joe Ruhlin said.
Investigators say the men admit to stealing one alligator, although five reportedly were taken. The alligators' owner is expected to wade into the exhibit today and do a tail count to clear up discrepancies.
After the videotape was released, authorities received an anonymous call identifying the man in it as Bryant, Ruhlin said.
Bryant had been at a party asking whether he could release an alligator into a body of water on the property, Ruhlin said. His host declined the offer.
The reptile is believed to have ended up in Allen's Creek, where it might not survive in the brackish water, said Sgt. Doug Griffith.