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Old 04-15-2008, 12:09 PM   #1
Gator found in burglary suspect’s car

Gator found in burglary suspect’s car

By John Lowman
The Facts

Published April 15, 2008

BRAZORIA — A water moccasin wasn’t the most unusual thing police found in the late-model Buick of a man charged with burglary this weekend.

A day after police found a 41?2-foot long water moccasin in the car of William Eric Johnson, authorities discovered a live, 6-foot alligator lounging in his back seat.

“It was like Crocodile Dundee, Brazoria style,” Brazoria Police Chief Neal Longbotham said.

Johnson, 30, had “several addresses,” including one in Tennessee but was possibly living at a trailer park in the 500 block of West San Bernard Street in Brazoria, Longbotham said. Johnson was charged with burglary of a habitation early Sunday after he was found with items missing from a trailer in the same park, Department of Public Safety Trooper Steven Stanfield said.

Johnson also was cited by a game warden for illegally possessing an alligator.

Johnson is accused of entering the trailer home of his employer’s son and stealing a Wii video game controller and a hair trimmer, among other items.

Longbotham said Johnson asked a neighbor to help him load some of the items into the Buick.

“A TV was too big for him to carry by himself, so he knocked on a door and asked for help getting it into his car,” Longbotham said. “The neighbor saw the man and the alligator and wanted no part of that.”

Johnson apparently drove toward Angleton on Highway 35 with the alligator loose in the back seat, police said. He caught Stanfield’s attention upon making a U-Turn near the intersection of highways 35 and 288.

“He made a second U-Turn and almost hit a car at a stop sign on the feeder road,” Stanfield said. “I pulled him over and, lo and behold, he had a 6-foot alligator in the back seat.

“He said he found it on the road and decided to get out and capture it,” Stanfield said. “It’s mouth wasn’t taped, it wasn’t bound. It was crawling around in the guy’s car. ... He said he was taking him to a friend’s house.”

A game warden took custody of the alligator and police took custody of Johnson, Stanfield said.

“He had a Wii video game controller in his front right pocket a hair trimmer in his front left pocket,” Stanfield said. “He said he was lost.”

Johnson smelled like alcohol, but authorities determined he wasn’t drunk, Stanfield said.

“It was a weird deal,” Stanfield said. “The alligator was perfectly content — happy. You don’t see that every day, that’s for sure.”

The day before, on Friday, workers in a restaurant in the 200 block of North Brooks Street in Brazoria told police a man there was intoxicated, Longbotham said. Police found Johnson in the 400 block of North Highway 6 with a water moccasin “about four-and-a-half feet long” in his Buick, Longbotham said.

“He said he put it in the car,” Longbotham said. “When the officer began looking, he told him there was a water moccasin in the car and to be careful — it’d bite. He said it bit him.”

Johnson’s left hand was swollen but he refused to be taken to a hospital, Longbotham said. Brazoria animal control officers found the snake, which had apparently found its way from the back seat to the trunk.

“It was curled up in a wheel well area,” he said. “It was constantly striking at animal control when they tried to take it from the car.”

The snake was removed and Johnson, who trims trees, released to the custody of his employer, Longbotham said.

After the burglary charge, Johnson was taken to the Brazoria city jail, then on Monday booked into the Brazoria County jail on $25,000 bond.