Man who fled with a tiger has been caught, but the animal is on the loose, Houston police say

Photo courtesy: Houston Police

By Carma Hassan, Keith Allen and Amir Vera, CNN

(CNN) -- Houston authorities have captured a man who allegedly evaded police while housing a Bengal tiger in a yard, but the tiger remains on the lam.

"The whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known," Houston police tweeted Monday.

Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was out on bond for a prior murder charge in Fort Bend County on Monday morning when neighbors spotted the tiger in a front yard, Houston Police Commander Ron Borza said in a news conference.

There were also reports that the suspect had monkeys, which are allowed in the city, Borza said. Owning a tiger is a violation of Houston law, but it is legal under Texas state law with certain restrictions.

An off-duty deputy went to the house to confront the suspect, Borza said. When Houston police arrived at the scene, Cuevas put the tiger in a white SUV and drove off, he said.

Cell phone video taken by Maria Torres and provided to CNN affiliate KTRK shows the big cat lounging and walking in the grass outside a suburban home. Later, a man in a white shirt -- who police said is Cuevas -- straddled and grabbed the tiger and tried to move it away from others.

"There was a brief pursuit, and the man got away with the tiger," Borza said. Owning a tiger in Houston is a Class C misdemeanor, Borza said, punishable with a maximum $500 fine.

Police tweeted late Monday that Cuevas was in custody, but the tiger is still on the loose. Cuevas is charged with evading arrest/detention with a vehicle, according to Fort Bend County Jail records.

Cuevas' lawyer, Michael Elliott,told CNN that Cuevasis not the owner of the tiger. He also criticized Houston Police for arresting Cuevas at his home in Fort Bend County even though they already had an agreement with authorities to peacefully surrender.

"I understand that a lot of people are interested in what's going to happen with the tiger and what's going on, but in this case HPD was in such a hurry to wrap it up (and) come find their guy, they just assumed," he told KTRK. "Because my client was the one who caught this tiger, who went out and got it, brought it back in to safety, everyone is just assuming he's the owner of the tiger, that it's his tiger."

A Fort Bend County magistrate set a $50,000 bond Tuesday morning for Cuevas. He had been out on bond for a separate murder charge, and county prosecutors are now seeking to revoke his bond in that case. A hearing on that motion is set for Friday, according to Wesley Wittig, Fort Bend County Executive Assistant District Attorney.

Cuevas was previously charged with murder for allegedly shooting and killing a man in 2017. Court documents allege he has been in multiple violations of his bond since he was first arrested for murder in 2017.

Separately, he was also out on bond from a different charge earlier this year in Austin County of evading arrest or detention in a vehicle, according to court records. He will likely stay in Fort Bend County until the hearing on Friday, according to Wittig.

Cuevas' attorney had asked for a $5,000 bond for the evading arrest charge.

The-CNN-Wire
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