by Nick Baker
As the story went, the croc, originally reported by police as a 4-foot alligator, was not able to be temporarily housed at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. And, according to reports, the reasoning for the zoo's refusal, as could best be figured by anyone following the story, was because the poor little guy's origin was "unknown." So the police taped it's mouth shut and the wildlife officer killed it. End of story, right? Not quite...
Apparently, things went down a little differently, at least according to various official reports. It appears that key parties involved, namely a Metroparks dispatcher, a state wildlife officer and a Cleveland police dispatcher all knew one detail originally left out of the report: The zoo was happy to take the croc, at least as a temporary measure.
So who ordered the proverbial hit?
Well, it seems a series of swift, rouge actions by the police department led to the reptile's untimely end. According to PD reporter Donna Miller, it went down (no pun intended) something like this:
The Metroparks ranger dispatcher had arranged for the caiman to go to the zoo Tuesday morning, but as he tried to explain the plan to a Cleveland police dispatcher, she interrupted, telling him "not to worry about it, she would instruct her officers to put the alligator down."
Then she hung up, according to the park dispatcher's written report.
A zoo veterinarian was called at home, and he said the crocodile could be kept overnight in a "dog crate, secure garage or a trunk of a car, if no other option was available; then keep the car out of direct sunlight."
Then the parks dispatcher called a a wildlife officer, named only as "Bartczak," who was busy with a boater emergency but was told the zoo would take the croc. So another wildlife officer, Hollie Fluharty, met with the police holding the animal. Then, it goes something like this:
The officer told Fluharty "that there were several failed attempts to find a home for the caiman," including the zoo, so "the animal was given to Fluharty to be dispatched," wildlife spokeswoman Jamey Graham said during an interview Tuesday.
"Fluharty had no reason to doubt the officers," so she shot it in the head with a .22-caliber rifle, Graham said.
The names of the police officers and dispatcher were not reported.