His story: Man fleeing deputies, attacked by gator speaks to WFL - WRBL

His story: Man fleeing deputies, attacked by gator speaks to WFLA.com

Posted: Updated:
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

How did a man wind up with his arm and head in a gator's mouth? By running away from a traffic stop, according to Pinellas County deputies.

"I'm still in shock," said Bryan Zuniga in a jail interview with News Channel 8. "I'm just glad to be alive right now and that I'm okay."

Zuniga says the gator's teeth left deep holes from his left arm, up his shoulder, and onto his face.

"From the tip of my fingers to half my bicep - that's how long the snout was," Zuniga said.

This story starts early Thursday morning in the 7100 block of 78th Ave. N in Pinellas County. Deputies say they pulled over Zuniga, who's 20, for failing to "maintain a single lane."

"I was going from a gas station to another one but they were both closed. I did use my traffic signals for every turn and switching lanes," he said. "I saw a car with one headlight following me and I just felt uncomfortable. I didn't know if it was a police officer. I didn't know if it was undercover."

Zuniga said one reason he was uneasy was because, recently, people have tried to "intimidate" him, but he wouldn't elaborate on what that meant.

"I saw the car approach behind me and it pulled in the driveway behind me too. As it did that - I just jumped out of my car and I started running," he said. "I didn't hear 'this is the sheriff's department' or 'I'm an officer.' I just heard someone say 'stop and come here.' I just kept running. I didn't want to look back. I was scared."

Eventually, he says, he did realize what was really happening.

"By the time I jumped a couple fences and I was running away I heard 'back-up' and I realized it was an officer. Then I was just surrounded by cops and I realized I was alluding a traffic stop," Zuniga said. "I was just scared of the way the officers were going to approach me if they were going to tease me, hit me, abuse me or something because I was running."

He made it to a canal and started swimming away.

"Because I was swimming for so long and I was running - I got exhausted so I stopped," he said.

The water was knee-deep.

"That's how the gator caught up to me. When he saw that I stopped, he attacked me," Zuniga said. "The moment his teeth and his jaws touched me - I was in a death roll and I was fighting for my life."

He says the gator clamped down on his arm up to his armpit and bit his face too. How did he get away?

"I don't know. I must've poked it in the eye or I made it realize I didn't want to be gator food," he said. "The moment it released me - I stood up and I just ran."

Zuniga walked to St. Petersburg General Hospital where deputies eventually caught up with him and took him to jail.

"I feel very lucky to be here and alive ... and know that I have my body parts still together - not my arm missing, a finger, or an eyeball," Zuniga said. "It's just all a misunderstanding and misunderstandings lead to bad things."

At his first appearance on Friday, a judge could see Zuniga's injuries even as he came up to the microphone on tele-conference.

"What did you tangle with a K9," asked Judge Frank Quesada. This is the conversation that followed:

Bryan Zuniga: "An alligator."

Judge: "Alligator? Police using alligators now?"

Bryan Zuniga: "No."

Judge: "Oh."

Quesada assigned a public defender to represent Zuniga since the defendant couldn't afford one. Among other things Zuniga is facing charges of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer, which his defense is already challenging. The judge set his bond at $2,300. As of Friday night, the man who says he survived a gator attack was still in jail.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:33 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:33:29 GMT
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
  • Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Back-to-School Tax-free Holiday is here

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:37 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:37:09 GMT
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
    It's almost time to head back to school and that means it's time to shop.
  • Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Tampa Bay woman feels ripped off, pays $61 for coins worth $1.50

    Thursday, July 31 2014 6:10 PM EDT2014-07-31 22:10:55 GMT
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
    Vickie McInnis responded to a newspaper ad promising a chance to buy old, rarely-seen coins that have been sitting in a bank vault for years.With shipping, she paid $61.43. But, here's what she received: a bag of about 100 pennies, worth at most: $1.50.
  • NewsMore>>

  • No love for Lyft in the Tampa Bay area?

    No love for Lyft in the Tampa Bay area?

    Friday, August 1 2014 6:27 PM EDT2014-08-01 22:27:16 GMT
    Kevin Ludig feels like a rock star – he loves his job at Lyft that much.“You know I keep telling people I feel like a rock star because everyone keeps talking about what I do,” joked Kevin in his sleek Mercury MKS Hybrid. “I love this job.”Kevin uses his life at Lyft as a supplement to his work in solar panel sales.
    Kevin Ludig feels like a rock star – he loves his job at Lyft that much.“You know I keep telling people I feel like a rock star because everyone keeps talking about what I do,” joked Kevin in his sleek Mercury MKS Hybrid. “I love this job.”Kevin uses his life at Lyft as a supplement to his work in solar panel sales.
  • Cities not interested in joining combined 911 center in Pinellas County

    Cities not interested in joining combined 911 center in Pinellas County

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:42 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:42:56 GMT
    Thursday Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told county commissioners and others attending a tour of his new Public Safety Complex that "it's time [for Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs] to stop the nonsense" and combine their police dispatch operations with the new 911 center located inside his headquarters.
    Thursday Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told county commissioners and others attending a tour of his new Public Safety Complex that "it's time [for Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs] to stop the nonsense" and combine their police dispatch operations with the new 911 center located inside his headquarters.
  • Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Woman says she bought tainted Hostess donettes at Sarasota gas station

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:33 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:33:29 GMT
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
    Everyone loves a good donut. But not the ones Jena Slinkard bought Thursday night at gas station in Sarasota. She just wanted a yummy, powdered donut late at night. So she bought a few packs, but when she bit into her normal favorite, Hostess Donettes, she spit it right out.
Powered by WorldNow

1350 13th Avenue
Columbus, GA 31901

Telephone: 706.323.3333
Fax: 706.327.6655
Email: news@wrbl.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.