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Tiger, gator removed from Harlem apartment

Police: Tenant charged with reckless endangerment

Video from a police surveillance camera shows the tiger resting in a Harlem apartment Saturday.
Video from a police surveillance camera shows the tiger resting in a Harlem apartment Saturday.

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• Gallery: Tiger found in Harlem 
New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A man who kept a 400- to 500-pound Bengal tiger and a 3-foot alligator as roommates in his Harlem apartment was in custody Sunday, charged with reckless endangerment, police said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the tale began Wednesday, when police officers responded to a call of a dog bite at the 19-story public housing apartment building. They found Antoine Yates, 31, in the lobby, with injuries to his right arm and right leg that he told police had been caused by a pit bull, Kelly said.

Yates was taken to Harlem Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment.

Thursday, an anonymous caller told police that "someplace in the city, there was a large wild animal," Kelly said. "There was a large wild animal who was biting people."

The tipster called back Friday night, saying that the "wild animal" was at Yates' apartment, Kelly said.

When police returned Saturday to the apartment building to investigate, a resident told them the tenants included a tiger. Yates -- who had checked himself out of the hospital -- was nowhere to be found.

Police talked with a neighbor who said the man in the apartment owned a tiger. A fourth-floor resident complained that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates' apartment, Kelly said.

Still trying to determine what they were dealing with, police cut a hole in Yates' door.

"An officer who was guarding the apartment looked through the hole and indeed saw the large tiger pass by the open hole," Kelly said.

Larry Wallach, a tiger specialist from Suffolk County who assisted the police, said the orange tiger looked well-fed and in "great shape."

After it was sedated, the tiger was carried from the building on a gurney and loaded onto a waiting truck.
After it was sedated, the tiger was carried from the building on a gurney and loaded onto a waiting truck.

Wallach said he peered through the hole and saw the tiger lying by the window, and Kelly said he spied the animal contentedly licking its paws.

Police said the apartment was so cluttered they felt they had no choice but to rappel from above and shoot a tranquilizer dart from outside.

Officer Martin Duffy got the job, lowering himself from a seventh-floor apartment, armed with a tranquilizer gun and an M-4 rifle. Once at the window, he tapped on it with his shoe to get the tiger's attention.

The tiger lunged.

"I got pretty nervous, I'm not going to lie," Duffy told reporters later. "He broke the glass when he charged at me."

Duffy fired one dart into the animal and was then lowered to the ground. A second officer rappelled down the side of the building a few minutes later to ensure the animal was sedated before police entered the apartment through the door. They found the animal unconscious atop a pile of furniture.

The alligator was nearby. Both animals were taken to an animal shelter.

Yates, who surfaced later Saturday night at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, in Philadelphia, was taken into custody and charged with reckless endangerment, police said.

"This is an only-in-New-York story," Kelly said.

Police suspect Yates got the tiger when it was a cub and had lived with it for as long as two years.

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