Houston authorities have captured a man who allegedly evaded police while housing a Bengal tiger in a yard, but the tiger remains on the lam.
“The whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known,” Houston police tweeted Monday.
Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was out on bond for a prior murder charge in Fort Bend County on Monday morning when neighbors spotted the big cat in a front yard, Houston Police Commander Ron Borza said in a news conference.
There were also reports that the suspect had monkeys, which are allowed in the city, Borza said. Owning a tiger is a violation of Houston law, but it is legal under Texas state law with certain restrictions.
An off-duty deputy went to the house to confront the suspect, Borza said. But when Houston police arrived at the scene, Cuevas put the tiger in a white SUV and drove off, he said.
“There was a brief pursuit, and the man got away with the tiger,” Borza said. Owning a tiger in Houston is a Class C misdemeanor, Borza said, punishable with a maximum $500 fine.
Police tweeted late Monday that Cuevas was in custody, but the tiger is still on the loose. Cuevas is charged with evading arrest/detention with a vehicle, according to Fort Bend County Jail records.
Cuevas’ lawyer, Michael Elliott, told CNN affiliate KTRK that Cuevas is not the owner of the tiger. He also criticized Houston Police for arresting Cuevas at his home in Fort Bend County even though they already had an agreement with authorities to peacefully surrender.
“I understand that a lot of people are interested in what’s going to happen with the tiger and what’s going on, but in this case HPD was in such a hurry to wrap it up (and) come find their guy, they just assumed,” he said. “Because my client was the one who caught this tiger, who went out and got it, brought it back in to safety, everyone is just assuming he’s the owner of the tiger, that it’s his tiger.”
Authorities plan to try to revoke Ceuvas’ bond for the murder charge dating to November 2020 following this incident.
Police are asking anyone with information on the tiger to contact Houston Police Department Major Offenders at (713) 308-3100.