HUMBOLDT PARK — A Facebook video surfaced Saturday night showing a group of people in Humboldt Park with a 3-foot-long alligator they said they caught in the lagoon.
But while the video showed the men handing the alligator off to police, whether it was actually caught in the lagoon was not verified. In a follow-up video, a man filming says the fishermen were taken by police for more questioning.
A man holding the alligator said he was a neighbor of the park, saw an alligator and went out Saturday night to catch it. In the video, multiple Chicago Police officers are on the scene, including one who pets the reptile.
The alligator is put into the back seat of a police SUV before the first video ends.
A Chicago Police spokesman said they are investigating if the men really caught it in the lagoon — just days after a rogue 5-foot alligator was famously caught in the same lagoon after a week of eluding capture. The city eventually brought in a reptile wrangler from Florida, Frank Robb, who nabbed the gator and became an instant Chicago celebrity dubbed “Alligator Robb.”
“I think it’s too premature,” Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi said Sunday morning. “We have to figure out what this is. It’s illegal to have an alligator. It’s illegal to dump an alligator in Chicago. And we want to look at exactly what happened here. Was this alligator actually in the lagoon? Was he just brought here?
“Just like any contact with police, the first thing any officer or detective does, is assess the validity of what is told to police,” he said.
Police offered this summary of the strange night at Humboldt Park.
“Last night around 9:30 p.m., Chicago Park District security was advised that a subject caught another alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon. The subject alleged to have caught the alligator was present with the alligator holding the animal with black tape around the animals jaws and apparently was already posting to Facebook live. A second subject was with the first and both gave conflicting statements on scene.
“Further information developed in which it became known that one of the subjects had been in contact with Frank Robb through social media during and since the initial Alligator incident and made comments indicating he and his brother almost had caught the first alligator. Based on the inconsistencies and information provided by Frank Robb the subjects were taken into custody on scene and transported to the 14th District for investigation. The alligator which was approximately 3 feet was turned over to the animal control section on scene.”
“The subjects were interviewed by Area North Detectives. Frank Robb was also contacted and stated that in his professional opinion the animal was juvenile and could not have been in the lagoon for any period of time. Frank Robb further stated that his investigation on scene revealed only one alligator in the lagoon which was the one captured prior to this incident. The subjects were released at this time pending further investigation by Detectives into the validity of this incident.”
An Animal Care and Control spokesman said the gator has been impounded. “On Saturday night, Chicago Animal Care and Control responded to a call from the 9-1-1 center concerning an alligator at the Humboldt Park Lagoon. CACC dispatched an officer to that location and did impound an alligator and transported it back to Animal Control. The matter is currently under investigation.”
The posted video begins after the alligator is already in the hands of the fisherman. Its snout is taped shut. A man on the video said, when questioned by the person shooting the Facebook video, that he brought tape with him in case he caught a gator.
Earlier this month, an alligator later named “Chance The Snapper” by Block Club Chicago readers was spotted in the lagoon. The gator became the city mascot of sorts, an innocent animal announcing himself in the middle of a quiet lagoon in the middle of a Chicago summer. His elusiveness from a week-long hunt only added to his legend.
After his capture, he was shown off at a press conference and later taken to a Florida reptile sanctuary.
Saturday night’s first Facebook video begins with a man in a Blackhawks shirt holding the alligator. He shows it off to people congregating around the Humboldt Park boathouse, including police officers.
At the end of the video, he walks it to officers near their squad cars, offers to let them pose for photos with it, and then ultimately puts the alligator into the back seat of a police SUV.
A second video appears to show an officer moving the gator into an Animal Care and Control van.
A third video includes the man filming growing skeptical of the fishermen’s story after police question them.
Guglielmi said the men questioned are not in custody.
“Two men have been let go pending further investigation. Detectives have some more work to do before we take another run,” he said.
“If there is an allegation a restricted animal was dumped or false statements were made to the police then certainly there will be accountability.”