One of America’s most-wanted has finally been caught… having spent the past two years lounging in a Los Angeles lake.
For months, the 6.5ft (2m) alligator called Reggie evaded authorities and was more headline news than the average A-list celebrity.
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin had even offered to help nab Reggie at one point while the local newspaper kept a Reggie Watch on its masthead. He even inspired a song, two children’s books and innumerable T-shirts.
Every day, crowds of people converged on Harbor City’s Lake Machado hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive creature who was dumped in the park by its owner back in 2005.
But when his time was up – as he sunbathed in a secluded area of the park – Reggie refused to surrender without a fight.
In true Hollywood style, as TV helicopters hovered above and fans and paparazzi gazed on, Reggie thrashed around as six men attempted to restrain him while reptile expert Ian Recchio hooked its neck so the alligator’s jaws could be taped shut.
Reggie was then loaded onto a truck by firefighters bound for Los Angeles Zoo where he will be kept in quarantine for up to two months. Clearly fame doesn’t come without a price.
Reggie was an illegal pet allegedly tossed into the 50-acre lake by a former policeman when it got too big. The officer pleaded not guilty in April to 14 misdemeanor charges and awaits trial.
When the animal was first spotted in the murky lake in August 2005, it became a sensation as crowds gathered to catch a glimpse. Locals named it Reggie, though itâ€™s not clear whether the reptile is male or female.
Gloria and Danny Gutierrez said they would go to the lake several times a week and watch for Reggie. Gloria Gutierrez wore a white T-shirt decorated with the words â€œWelcome back, Reggie.â€
â€œWeâ€™d bring our chairs out here and a bag of fruit, and weâ€™d talk with people we didnâ€™t even know,â€ Danny Gutierrez said.
The gator inspired a zydeco song, two childrenâ€™s books and innumerable T-shirts. Students at Los Angeles Harbor College next to the lake adopted Reggie as a second mascot.