Wondering if Captain Hook is the only one with a serious gator problem? Think again. In this case of a bumbling burglary, karma truly does rear its head: in the form of a gator eating an accused burglar. Hear more below!
Matthew Riggins, a 22-year-old burglar near Palm Bay, Florida, was robbing homes in the middle of November last year when he thought he was about to get caught. So he hid in what he thought was a safe location, and what turned out to be his doom: Barefoot Bay Lake in Brevard County.
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office reported that Riggins was attacked by an 11-foot gator. The attack proved fatal, as the body of Riggins was found days later, apparently killed by drowning after the attack.
It was 10 days after he was reported burglarizing a home—a task he enjoyed so much that he bragged about the nefarious activities to his girlfriend. He told his girlfriend on the night of Nov. 12 that he and another man would be going to the Bay to “commit burglaries.”
Early on Nov. 13, around 2 a.m., there were reports of two suspicious men lurking around homes in the quiet neighborhood of the Barefoot Bay area. Those men were reportedly Riggins and his accomplice. Deputies found and then trailed the pair on Royal Palm Boulevard. The duo, realizing the jig was up, fled with the deputies in hot pursuit. By that time, K-9 and aviation units were taking up the chase. While all hands were on deck, the deputies didn’t catch the pair until later that evening.
The Palm Bay Police Department noted that, “It was later learned that Riggins had contacted his girlfriend during the timeframe of the search, advising that they were being chased by deputies. Riggins was reported as a missing person to the Palm Bay Police Department later that day when he did not return home.”
Riggins was reported as missing until his body was discovered in the late, spotted on Nov. 23. The Sheriff’s Office had to call in its dive team in order to retrieve the body and noted the nearby aggressive 11-foot gator. Investigators then put two and two together and surprised that the alligator had been instrumental in the man’s death.
It would take the examination of a forensic specialist to confirm their suspicions. The gator was involved in Riggins’ death, albeit the final cause was drowning based on the wounds.
The other man in the series of burglaries was identified, but he hasn’t been cooperative. So the police are having trouble figuring out how exactly Riggins ended up in the lake.
Still, the gator’s behavior was too much to risk for other citizens. The deputy team brought in a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trapper to cage and kill (euthanize) the terrible critter.
“When the body was found, it had injuries that were consistent with an alligator attack,” Maj. Tod Goodyear of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said. “We had trappers euthanize the gator and when we opened it up, there were some remains inside that were consistent with injuries found on the body.”
Riggins’s death was only the second alligator-related fatality in Florida for 2015. Another man died swimming in Blue Spring State Park in Oct. 2015.
There have only been 22 fatalities related to gators since they were recorded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission back in 1948. For the most part, they have been aggressive but not fatal: 122 minor bites and 235 major but not life-threatening attacks. In fact, an attack hasn’t ended in death in the whole state of Florida since 2007.
There are a lot of gator-spottings, however, and perhaps the Floridian hotline to report gators has been helping. The number to dial if you see one in Florida is 1-866-FWC-GATOR (1-866-392-4286).