BUSHNELL, Fla. — Deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office are searching for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the theft of a rare alligator, arson, and the death of 43 other reptiles Friday night.
According to a statement made by the Sheriff’s Department, deputies and firefighters were dispatched to a structure fire on SW 52nd Terrace in Bushnell at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday night.
By the time firefighters managed to extinguish the flames, the building was a total loss.
Once the fire was extinguished, the property owner and deputies searched the remnants and found 43 of the sheltered reptiles consisting of alligators and crocodiles dead as a result of the fire.
The property owner noted that among the deceased reptiles, one was missing, a rare leucistic alligator, sometimes referred to as a white alligator, named “Snowball”.
An investigator from the State Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the scene to determine the cause of the fire, however, preliminary reports state the fire is believed to be arson according to evidence found at the scene.
Deputies believe one or more suspects burglarized the building stealing the rare gator and then set the building on fire.
Anyone with any information as to the identity or location of the suspect(s) or the missing alligator is asked to contact Sumter County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Merritt at (352) 793-2621 or they can report their information anonymously by calling Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477).