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Fleeing suspect attacked by alligator in Pinellas Co.

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

A man who ran from deputies during a traffic stop turned up later in the hospital, claiming he'd been attacked by an alligator.

It happened early Thursday morning in the 7100 block of 78th Avenue North.  Deputies say they pulled over Bryan Zuniga, 20, for failing to maintain a single lane.  Instead of cooperating, Zuniga opened the passenger door, jumped out of the vehicle, kicked a hole in a nearby fence, and escaped.

About nine hours later, Zuniga was found at a local hospital, where he was being treated for multiple puncture wounds to his face, arm, and armpit area.  Zuniga told deputies he was attacked by an alligator near a water treatment plant in unincorporated St. Petersburg.

Neighbors who live in Westchester Estates say they are used to seeing wildlife in the area near the plant.  Most had heard of Zuniga's encounter with the reptile.  "Anybody who does something that's questionably judgemental about jumping into the water to flee the police kind of like asked for that kind of response" said Donna Keller.  Another neighbor said she see hawks, osprey, dolphins and alligators all the time. She says none of them bother people.  "I just think that's so stupid. Why in the world would you jump in there? There are alligators in there. You know it. But I'm sure he learned his lesson. I think next time he might stop for the police officer" said Cindy Fletcher.

Zuniga was released from the hospital and transported to jail.  He is charged with breaking or injuring fences, fleeing and eluding a police officer, driving while driver's licenses suspended/revoked, and resisting an officer without violence.

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