Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reggie, the alligator, captured

Taken in
By Jesus Sanchez
Times Staff Writer

5:01 PM PDT, May 24, 2007

Reggie the alligator's two years of freedom ended this afternoon when the coldblooded fugitive left the chilly waters of Lake Machado and was taken into custody on the shore.

The 7-foot alligator was taken to the Los Angeles Zoo, where he will be quarantined for up to 60 days to make sure he isn't carrying any diseases.

Still, by all appearances, "he's in good shape," said Karen Knipscheer, a spokeswoman for the city's Animal Services Department.

The capture came as experts from Australia were meeting with Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and her aides on how to capture the alligator, which had been spotted recently in the lake near the Harbor Freeway in Harbor City.

During the meeting, Hahn's office was called with the news that Reggie was spotted. Within minutes, a city zoo reptile expert made the capture. Reggie was hustled into an animal control van. Reggie, who resurfaced in late last month after a nearly 18-month-long absence, had managed to elude professional alligator hunters, including a team from Gatorland in Florida, which spent part of 2005 searching for Reggie after the creature was allegedly dumped in the lake by owners who considered him too big to keep. The city has spent an estimated $180,000 to capture and protect the public from the reptile.

Ex-LAPD Officer Todd Natow and a friend, Anthony Brewer, both from San Pedro, were arrested after a tip led investigators to the pair. Authorities said Reggie had grown too large for a backyard pool where he was being kept.

Brewer pleaded no contest to a state wildlife law violation and was sentenced to probation. Natow, with the LAPD from 1984 to 2001, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges tied to Reggie's possession and lake release.

And in a scene reminiscent of a certain chase of a white Bronco, Channel 7 news broke into its broadcast this afternoon to show the white Animal Control truck carrying Reggie up the Harbor Freeway.