About 6:30 p.m. on June 21, 2016, 74-year-old Reginald Blanton discovered a 8.5-9 foot, 300 lb. alligator near his agitated horses. Blanton shot the reptile with a 9mm handgun, reportedly hitting it two or three times. The shots may have proved fatal, but the alligator was still there, lying in the grass, when the authorities “euthanized it.” While the story is almost two months old, there are important lessons here.
After the shots, Blanton’s stepson, Jack Hildreth, 58, approached the alligator, believing it to be dead. It wasn’t. From wfla.com:
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 in this (graphic) YouTube video. The video shows the speed with which an attack can occur. Blanton’s stepson, Hildreth, 58, was severely injured.
Don’t assume your adversary is out of the fight simply because they are down and motionless. 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.
That 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’s a small target, as is the brain.
What happened six weeks later is also instructive.
Jack Hildreth was medivaced by helicopter with severe leg and thigh injuries. 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’s not certain if only one, or both have been charged.
This wasn’t a civil summons, as is usually the case in game violations. This was a full blown criminal arrest. He had to post bond.
That’s rather unusual for an animal situation, especially in a case such as this in which the arrested is a long-time local resident who has property and livestock in the area. A 74-year-old land owner seems an unlikely flight risk. From dailycommercial.com:
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.
You can’t 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 thousands more (mostly federal) are added each year.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know if you are breaking a law or not. Some authoritative writers claim that an ordinary citizen commits three felonies a day, whether they intend to or not, simply becuse of the increasing complexity and vagueness of the law.
But this is an example of the problems that face someone who is involved in a defensive shooting. Legions of people who don’t know you and who weren’t there will be second guessing your actions and motivations. Some of them have the power to cause you considerable difficulty legally, even long after the fact.
Animal attacks are usually far less of a problem to justify than shooting a human for many good and obvious 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 the situation may be.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch