Men who stole shark by hiding it in baby stroller wanted to replace one that died at their home
The 16-inch female horn shark was taken during a heist that aquarium officials said was very carefully planned
Law enforcement authorities reported that two men have admitted to stealing a shark from an aquarium in Texas and using a baby stroller to smuggle the shark out of the building. The men confessed to taking the 1.5-foot-long horn shark from the San Antonio Aquarium after authorities showed up at one of their residences with a search warrant, Leon Valley Police Chief Joe Salvaggio told reporters on Monday.
The shark was brought back to the aquarium Monday evening in "very good condition", according to Salvaggio. The female shark, known to many as Helen, received a hero's welcome from employees.
On Saturday afternoon, the men, accompanied by a woman, removed the shark from an open tank where visitors come every day to pet the sea life on display. According to a statement released by the aquarium, the criminals "staked out the pool for more than an hour" before nabbing the shark.
While the police chief declined to identify the suspects Monday night, he said one of them was a 38-year-old, white San Antonio resident, reported Fox News.
According to investigators, one of them grabbed the fish by the tail while the other two wrapped it in a wet blanket. They subsequently put the shark into a bucket and hid it in the bottom part of the baby stroller before transferring the cargo onto a maroon truck.
The group had dumped a bleach solution used to disinfect tools into the cold water exhibit filtration system while they were putting the shark in the bucket. According to the aquarium, the solution "caused harm to other wildlife" and "if it weren't for the fast acting experienced staff, the bleach would have done more damage."
In a conversation with KABB, the general manager of the aquarium, Jenny Spellman, said one of her workers spotted the group beforehand and alerted management. It was then that Spellman confronted the trio in the parking lot. However, they would not allow her request to search their truck.
It has come to light that the mastermind of the plan had previously kept numerous "marine animals" in his residence, which he later described as "almost a mock-up" of the aquarium, Salvaggio revealed Monday.
"He very much knew what he was doing and kept that animal alive and was able to continue to see that animal thrive, which is pretty shocking to all of us," he said.
Investigators later said that he had taken the shark to simply replace one that had recently died in his home setup.
While it is still being decided whether the woman would face charges, the men would face theft and other charges while the police department further investigates if federal charges are warranted in this case, Salvaggio said.