Naked robbers lead police to baby alligator

4:26 PM, Oct 17, 2012   |    comments
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(KPNX/USA Today)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A Tempe man who forced two men to strip naked after catching them burglarizing his car later was arrested after police discovered he had drugs and an alligator in his home, officials said.

Anthony Burton, 29, was booked into jail on suspicion of illegal possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and live wildlife, Tempe Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jeff Glover said. Anthony Gammon, 18, and Alberto Rosciano, 20, were booked on counts of burglary, possession of burglary tools, misconduct involving weapons and possession of drug paraphernalia.

About 3:15 a.m. Monday, Burton confronted Gammon and Rosciano with a handgun as they were breaking into his 2007 maroon Dodge Charger in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Priest Drive and Southern Avenue, police said. Burton forced the two men at gunpoint back to his apartment, where he demanded they return everything they had stolen from his car, police said.

Burton then forced Gammon and Rosciano to remove all their clothing, supposedly to ensure they didn't have additional stolen items, he said. Burton told them to leave but refused to give them back their clothes, only giving them their keys, police said.

Witnesses saw the men in the parking lot of the complex as they were leaving and called police, Glover said. They gave officers descriptions of both the men and their vehicle. Officers stopped Gammon and Rosciano, who still were naked, near Rural Road and U.S. 60, and later arrested them.

When officers went to Burton's apartment to talk to him about the incident, they discovered marijuana, several items of drug paraphernalia, and a live approximately 13-inch American alligator in a glass cage, Glover said. Burton apparently bought the gator over the Internet from a Florida company that breeds reptiles.

"So everybody was arrested," Glover said.

Burton was not booked on counts related to forcing Gammon and Rosciano to strip naked because investigators believe he did so as a victim attempting to ensure his own safety from the suspected burglars, Glover said.

Detectives can review the case later and decide to add additional charges, but what those charges are would depend on several factors, he said.

The alligator was turned over to the Phoenix Herpetological Society. American alligators can grow to up to 14 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds.

Curator Daniel Marchand said the herpetological society will find a home for the reptile, which he estimated is about a year and a half old.

"We're a no-kill facility so we are connected with zoos and sanctuaries throughout the United States," he said.

Marchand said they have "hundreds" of alligators come through, even though they are "100 percent illegal" to have in Arizona. They have found homes for most of them, are still looking for homes for others and have others still that they will keep because they have grown too big to place elsewhere.

Most people who have alligators in Arizona "don't care about the dangers it poses to them or their children or anybody around them," Marchand said.

(KPNX/AZCentral)

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