Houston, TX – A Bengal tiger remained on the loose after his owner, who is facing charges for murder, was arrested by Houston police on Mother’s Day (video below).
Houston Police Commander Ron Borza said the incident began when neighbors called police after seeing a tiger in their yard on May 9, CNN reported.
Neighbor John Ramos, 50, said he was eating dinner when he happened to look out his front window and saw the tiger sitting in his yard.
“I had to pinch myself,” Ramos told CNN. “Was this real?”
Ramos was brave enough to go outside and take a closer look at the tiger.
He also took some photos and video of it, CNN reported.
“It seemed a bit skittish,” Ramos recalled. “But he was making full eye contact with me.”
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy who lived nearby heard there was a tiger loose in his neighborhood and went to see if he could help.
Video showed that he pointed his weapon at the tiger but did not approach it.
The deputy told NBC News that he didn’t want to have to shoot the tiger and was relieved when its owner – later identified as 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas – showed up.
Ramos told CNN that Cuevas came out of the house and pleaded with the deputy not to shoot his tiger.
“He sounded very stressed out, very anguished by the mere fact that the deputy was aiming at the tiger and ready to shoot him,” he explained.
Police said that Cuevas straddled the tiger and dragged the big cat back into his own house, CNN reported.
But when Houston police arrived on the scene, Cuevas loaded the tiger into a white SUV and fled the scene, driving across his own curb and yard to get away from law enforcement, NBC News reported.
Police chased Cuevas but he managed to evade them, CNN reported.
“There was a brief pursuit, and the man got away with the tiger,” Commander Borza said.
Cuevas was later caught and arrested by police, but the tiger remained at large, CNN reported.
“Victor Hugo Cuevas is in custody. The whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known,” Houston police tweeted on Monday night.
UPDATE #2: Victor Hugo Cuevas is in custody. The whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known.
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) May 11, 2021
Cuevas was out on bond at the time he was arrested, CNN reported.
He is facing murder charges in a 2017 killing.
Cuevas’ attorney, Michael Elliott, said the tiger is named “India” and she’s nine months old, CNN reported.
However, Elliott said the big cat didn’t actually belong to his client, KTRK reported.
“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,” the attorney said. “Because my client was the one who caught this tiger, who went out and got it, brought it back into safety, everyone is just assuming he’s the owner of the tiger, that it’s his tiger.”
Elliott said he was also upset that police had showed up to arrest Cuevas on at his home after he had already agreed to peacefully surrender, CNN reported.
A judge set Cuevas’ bond at $50,000 on Tuesday, but he remained in custody while prosecutors were working to have his bond revoked from the murder case at a hearing on May 14.
It’s illegal to own a tiger in the city of Houston, but it’s not illegal to have one in Texas as long as the owner registers it and complies with certain restrictions, CNN reported.
There were reports that Cuevas also had monkeys living in the house, but those are legal in Houston city limits.
Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and one of the stars of the Netflix documentary Tiger King, warned that the tiger could be dangerous even though it appeared fairly domesticated in the cell phone videos, KVUE reported.
“Clearly somebody knows where this tiger is, and the best thing they can do is reach out to law enforcement and let them know,” Baskin said.
She said the tiger could have easily killed an adult or child when it got loose on Mother’s Day.
“They always grow up to be who they are, which is apex killers,” she told KVUE
Watch the incident unfold in the videos below. WARNING – Obscene Language:
Apparently there's a tiger loose on my parents' West Houston street? pic.twitter.com/TgdIiPSPKx
— robwormald (@robwormald) May 10, 2021
Authorities are searching for a man whose tiger was found wandering around a neighborhood in Houston.
An armed off-duty sheriff's deputy told the man to take his tiger inside before the caretaker rushed the tiger away in a white car as police arrived. https://t.co/bMe66Ok2O5 pic.twitter.com/DZxa7wVvkV
— ABC News (@ABC) May 10, 2021