Photo Courtesy of Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
An Oak Park driver and his passenger, an alligator named Karen, were taken into custody Saturday night after leading Lake County Sheriff’s deputies on a short chase along US-10, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies tried to stop the driver for driving too fast, but he drove off. He eventually stopped after getting his car stuck between two trees on the Rails-to-Trails pathway near South Forman Road in Webber Township.
It was then that deputies made a surprising discovery.
“[He] was still trying to get out, trying to get away and when officers went up to contact the person in the vehicle there, [he’s] in possession of an alligator, actually holding it,” says Undersheriff Mark Pietras.
The 40-year-old is now facing several charges, and has several warrants from another jurisdiction, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Karen the Alligator tried to run away when the car was stopped, but was taken into custody after a short fight.
“We haven’t had any training on how to deal with alligators,” says Pietras. “So you call somebody who has experience with handling those type of exotic animals.”
The gator was taken hold of and deputies wrapped electrical tape around her mouth before being placing her in the patrol car.
Karen, who has quite the following on TikTok, is not facing any charges. She is believed to be an unwilling participant in the chase and is believed to have never been in control of the car, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
She is being held, for now, at Cicchelli’s Second Chance Rescue and Exotics in Lake City while her owner, the driver, goes through the judicial process.
For Cicchelli’s, this is not the first time they’ve been called to care for an animal after a crime has been committed.
“We’ve had probably about a dozen law enforcement calls, mainly reptiles,” says Cicchelli’s Owner, April Cicchelli.
She says it’s unusual to have calls about exotic animals in this part of the country though, aside from reptiles. Still, Cicchelli’s is happy to help law enforcement by taking temporary custody of an animal if needed.
Cicchelli says they are concerned about making sure animals involved in these situations receive the proper care.
“Every little aspect goes into the health of the animal. You can’t just leave them behind,” she says.
The Oak Park driver is awaiting arraignment this week.