Friday, August 19, 2016

FL: Man Shoots Large Gator near Horses; Gator Attacks, Shooter Charged

Photo from Sumter County Sheriff's Office

About 6:30 p.m. on June 21, 2016, a 8.5-9 foot, 300 lb alligator was discovered near some agitated horses that belonged to Reginald Blanton, 74 years old.

Blanton shot the reptile with a 9mm handgun, reportedly hitting it two or three times.  Where he hit it is not clear, but the shots would likely have been  mortal, because the alligator was still there, lying in the grass, when the authorities "euthanized it".

While the story is two months old, there are important lessons to learn.

After the shots, Blanton's stepson, Jack Hildreth, 58, approached the alligator, believing it to be dead. It wasn't. From
His stepson then arrived and got about eight feet away from the alligator when it suddenly attacked. “Whenever he raised up after my stepson, it looked like he was shot out of a cannon. I had never seen nothing like it,” Blanton said.
Alligators can move amazingly fast for short bursts, as can be seen on this YouTube video of one predating on a feral pig. (If you are squeamish, do not watch this!)

Link to video on YouTube

The gator in the video seems close to the same size as the one in the Blanton/Hildreth situation.

The video shows the speed with which an attack can occur. Blanton's stepson, Hildreth, 58, was severely injured.

Do not assume your adversary is out of the fight simply because they are motionless and down.  They may be "playing possum".  Combat soldiers are taught to consider this when they approach downed enemy combatants.  A lot of people have been killed by "dead" adversaries.

This goes double for reptiles.  Snakes are particularly known  for being able to bite long after they are considered "dead".  Reptiles need far less oxygen to function; so it takes much longer for their systems to shut down.  A severing of the spinal cord stops them immediately, but it is a small target, as is the brain.

What happened six weeks later is also instructive.

After the attack, Jack Hildreth was medivaced by helicopter to have his severe leg and thigh injuries taken care of.

What makes the story current is what happened a few days ago.  Reginald Blanton was arrested for shooting the alligator, or for possessing alligator parts illegally.  Both charges have been mentioned in press reports. It is not certain if only one, or both have been charged.

This was not a civil summons, as is usually the case in game violations.  This was a full blown arrest, haul you off to jail, require you to post bail, situation.

Blanton was arrested on 4 August.  He had to post bond, rather unusual for an animal situation, where the arrested is a long time local resident who has property and animals in the area. A 74 year old man with property and animals seems an unlikely flight risk.  I would have expected a signature bond at most, but some amount of bond was required.

Blanton was charged with possession of alligator parts. He was arrested and released on Aug. 4 after he posted bail.

Now, Blanton said his lawyer has told him the charges will be dropped Thursday.

Standing with his cattle and donkeys on his County Road 542 property Wednesday, Blanton said he was shocked that he was arrested for shooting at an alligator who was endangering his horses.

The charges came from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and may have involved a missing piece of alligator tail.

A FWC spokesman said that the missing piece of alligator tail was missing before the shooting; so just what part of the alligator Blanton is charged with possessing is uncertain.  The dead alligator  was removed from his property by the authorities after the attack.

The charges came over six weeks after the shooting. They were not initiated by the local authorities, but by the FWC.

The local population was outraged.  One television station received over a thousand comments, the vast majority favorable to Blanton.

Blanton says his attorney told him the charges will be dropped today.  It seems optimistic; but he does have strong, local, support.  That can make a difference.  It could be difficult to find a jury that would convict him.  Large alligators are not popular in rural Florida, from my reading.  They are not endangered, and many people, with justification, view them as dangerous pests.

You cannot assume that you are legally in the clear, even if the local authorities have not charged you.  There are thousands of statutes on the books, and more thousands (mostly federal) are added each year.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to know if you are breaking the law or not.  Some authoritative writers claim that an ordinary citizen commits three felonies a day, whether they wish to or not, simply because of the complexity and vagueness of the law.

This was a high profile case, locally.  Perhaps the Fish and Wildlife investigator wanted to send a message.  Perhaps there is evidence that we are unaware of.

But it is an example of the problems that face someone who is involved in a defensive shooting.  Legions of people who do not know you and who were not there will be second guessing your motivations.  Some of them have the power to cause you considerable difficulty legally, after the fact.

It is another good reason to avoid shooting if there is a reasonable alternative.

Animal attacks are usually far less of a problem to justify than shooting a human, and for many good reasons.  But there are numerous people who anthropomorphise animals.  Some of those are willing to attack anyone who shoots an animal, no matter how justified it may be.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.  Link to Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

Years ago I had an aunt that lived in the heart of Jacksonville Florida. I went on vacation and was going to surprise her because we had not seen each other in many years. I parked my car and went to the front door and knocked. I could hear a scuffle going on and almost went in to see if she needed help for any reason, about the time I had decided to go in Armed, she answered the door. I asked her if she was OK she looked a little shaken. she said I'm sorry it took so long to get to the door but I was chasing an alligator off my back porch. It was a little one this time only about six feet long. She said they are everywhere and you have to be very careful. A 72 year old woman had to chase off an alligator with a broom because it was illegal to shoot them. she said they are very destructive and dangerous and use their tail as a weapon. Her home was in the city and it is not a small town. I have to keep my dog in the house because of mountain lions in the area. game and fish has warned me that they are protected. well so is my dog. they may be protected if I were going off my property to hunt them. but on my property me and mine are protected. If I kill it on my property it is mine. Once it comes on to my property game and fish loose all claim. Fish and game denied my request years ago for help with mountain lion control claimed I did not know what I was seeing then a month later they trapped two and took them out of the area. It was clear the mountain lions were stalking my children. Mountain lions travel in a 500 mile circle and they are back.

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Wireless.Phil said...

I didn't like that video, not because of what happened, that is natural.
I'm pissed because the person on the boat kept tossing in bread hoping the pig got bit and it did.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason it needed to be put into writing, into the highest law of the land, is for situations just like this - the Second Amendment was meant to be a exclamation point on the word no in the phrase NO! You Can't! ANd the directional finger pointed right squarely at government itself.

The one due charges here is the one who charged the man and arrested the man for doing nothing more than exercising his rights.

This is like arresting a man because he spoke to the alligator.
How dare he offend something in the environment with his brutal language!!!
Just stupid.

Anonymous said...

The alligator was trespassing, clearly an uninvited guest. If a person was going to bite you it would be legal to shoot, maybe the alligator had AIDS AND DIDN'T TELL ANYONE. What would be the reason for the alligator to charge? The little boy that was killed and eaten by an alligator in Florida could have used a shooter. Alligators are very fast and powerful. they have a lot more teeth than I do. No different than a charging bear or a shark. You do not get to second guess a wild animal. and they never sit down and discuss their next move. I would not have stopped shooting until I saw his brains leaking. I took my daughter to a reptile park but I never let go of her hand . everything was in glass cases or the walk ways were well elevated. Most of the alligators were under 10 feet long. I kept my other hand on my knife. Florida gun laws suck. She really liked riding on an elephant and feeding the Giraffes at a different park The reptile park had a Bam Boo viper under glass and Cobra. I was going to visit her in Georgia. so I researched what might be found there. every dangerous thing you can think of is there. while I was setting up our tents for camping I killed a timber rattler. My daughter said Dad come here Now. I almost stepped on it. it was five feet from her. every poisonous snake found anywhere in this country is in Georgia. In another camp site we ere visited by a 500 pound black bear. It destroyed one of my 6 gallon water cans with its claws. it did some other minor damage to the camp then left. A 357 magnum will crack the block in a diesel truck. but it might not be powerful enough to drop a bear with one shot at night. I was almost pressed to find out. there was a sign at the entrance of the camp site no guns allowed. I do not go camping without protection. we have camped all over this country. I have a federal park gold pass. You have to be alive to pay any fine. Idiotic rules do not count when protecting my daughter or myself. God gave us dominion over all animals. I do not speak any animal and they do not speak any human. as long as there can be no communication the animal looses. A federal game warden told me I did not see a mountain lion. I said if the mountain lion does not exist then you will never miss it if it comes back. they trapped the two I described a month later. I showed him the track in the dirt and he said it must be a large dog. I said a dog big enough to make a track like that would be big enough for a saddle. I was called about a half hour later and the fines were explained to me. I said you can fine me for killing something that does not exist. those two mountain lions were stalking my kids playing in the yard. I did not let them play out side until the mountain lions were caught and taken out of the area. I have to watch my dog when I let her out at night, the lions are back. My cat was setting on the arm of a chair looking out the open window when a mountain lion paw made a swipe at her through the window. I suppose the game warden would say I did not see that either. I have high windows. a lion big enough to reach through that window is no small lion.