WFLA – LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A man who ran into a Lakeland lake to escape from police had three quarters of his arm bitten off by an alligator in the lake, police said on Thursday.
Officers responded to a home on Long Lake Circle at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday after receiving a call about a disturbance. A Lakeland Police Department spokesperson said that a mother called and said her son, age, 21, needed psychological help and was having an episode at the time.
According to the man's family, he suffers from PTSD.
The man had gone into a wooded area behind their apartment and his mother was concerned for his safety. She said that if her son was found, she wanted him taken into custody under the Baker Act law.
Lakeland police officers responded and requested that the Polk County Sheriff's Office helicopter and a bloodhound help search the area.
The man called once from his cell phone and said he was near Combee Road at a dealership. At 9:21 p.m. officers located a witness who said they saw him running in the area.
Scott Maskal lives at the Landings Apartment complex in Lakeland. Wednesday night Maskal and his girlfriend saw what appeared to be two men fighting.
"We saw two guys that were running toward the lake," said Maskal.
Police were arriving on scene and Maskal was seeing the end of a family problem. Maskal went to the lake behind the apartments and saw a man on the ground near the water.
"I guess he tried to walk through the lake to get away from the cops and that's when the gator must have gotten him and clean took his hand right off and the cops were all looking for the gator," said Maskal.
The victim is related to Mike Taylor who says the victim was fighting with his own mother.
"It was getting to the point she said, I'm going to have to call the cops and have them come out here and talk to you and calm you down," said Taylor.
When police arrived, the victim fled into the lake. At 9:52 p.m., the sheriff's office helicopter spotted the man lying on the ground at 5026 Long Lake Circle. He told deputies he knew law enforcement was looking for him so he swam back across the lake to this location. A sign was posted where he exited the lake that read "Caution! Alligators frequent this area!"
"The cops were looking for him and it got pretty rough before he left and next thing I know, probably about 45 minutes later, I got a text from my wife saying I hear screaming out here," said Taylor.
He ran to the lake and saw his the victim on the ground.
"My neighbor was out here saying are you okay? What's going on? Is everything all right? I say, is that you? He says, yeah. He says a gator got me," said Taylor
Taylor couldn't believe what he saw next.
"I said, what's wrong man? He says, my hand hurts. I said which hand is it? He lifts it up and there is no hand there at all," said Taylor.
Police say the man was missing approximately three quarters of his left forearm. EMS responded to the scene and transported him to Lakeland Regional Health Center. The man was also placed under the Baker Act due to his condition. There are no criminal charges pending at this time against him. The victim is not charged with a crime.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was notified and officers will follow-up on the alligator bite incident.