A Clay County man has been arrested, after apparently breaking in to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and jumping in a pool with some crocodiles.
The Alligator Farm says their surveillance footage shows the man- now identified as 23-year-old Brandon Hatfield- getting in around 7:45PM Monday, damaging property at the snack bar, and then entering the newly opened “Oasis on the Nile” Nile Crocodile exhibit. The Alligator Farm says the suspect was then seen on the video climbing on a structure and jumping in to the pool.
One of the crocodiles attacked Hatfield, injuring his leg. The crocodiles in the pool were not hurt.
The man then climbed on to a zip line platform, according to the Alligator Farm, before fleeing the Park.
St. Augustine Police say they got a call about a suspicious man crawling around in a backyard in his underwear along Holly Lane, Tuesday morning. While responding, they found Hatfield, who said he had been bitten by an alligator.
Hatfield’s arrest report says he told police that an old man tried to feed him to alligators at that man’s home. He reportedly said the man had an alligator on a leash and many baby alligators in his garage, and that man was trying to feed him to those alligators. Hatfield further claimed the old man hit him with a hammer and forced him to drink a “black concoction”, before he was able to escape- according to the arrest report.
Police say they took Hatfield to Flagler Hospital, and while they were there they got the call from the Alligator Farm, and put everything together. The arrest report says Hatfield has to undergo surgery for his foot, and may have broken his ankle as well.
The Alligator Farm’s Director says when staff showed up for work this morning they first found signs of what they believed to be a prank, because there were shorts and Crocs in the pool. When they found the blood on the zip line platform, they realized it was more serious. He says they are always concerned about the safety and security of guests, but it’s “nearly impossible” to protect against “the lunacy and erratic behavior of nighttime trespassers”.
In all, the arrest report says there was more than $5100 in damage done to the Alligator Farm.
Hatfield has been arrested for criminal mischief, burglary, and probation violation. The arrest report says police believe he was under the influence at the time of the incident, but it does not specify what they believe he was on.