LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say human remains were found in the stomach of an alligator that was removed from a Polk County lake late Tuesday night.
Lakeland Police Department detectives were still working to identify the man whose body was found near the gator.
The gruesome discovery was made Tuesday after Joe Diaz called 911 to report seeing an alligator with a man’s body in its mouth.
“I noticed something bobbing in the water just over here. At first I thought it was a tire or something just from the looks of it,” Diaz told News Channel 8. “I noticed there was a gator on it because he kind of took it up and rolled it. “
Diaz said when he went to the lake, he saw the alligator was next to the body. “You could see how it was just staying there right next to the body and wouldn’t move, but as soon as more people got next to, or came up to the shore, the alligator had taken off,” he said.
Diaz speculated that the body had been in the lake. “You can tell it had been there awhile because they had smelled something that was not right.”
Lakeland Police responded and say they also saw the gator with the body. Police say the gator let go of the body and swam away, but continued to circulate the area for one hour.
“The officers got here and the alligator still had the person. He let the individual go, he is deceased, looks like this person may have been dead more than a day,” said Sgt. Gary Gross from Lakeland Police on Tuesday.
It’s not clear if the gator killed the man or how he died. An autopsy will be conducted on the body on Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, a Lakeland Police Department spokesperson said the body had not been identified and there are no missing persons cases in Lakeland that match the decedent.
FWC officers went back into the lake on Wednesday after seeing an alligator swimming in the lake with something in its mouth. The item in the alligator’s mouth turned out to be an animal.
Lakeland police say they have previously received calls regarding incidents in the area.
On June 4th, police received a call from a citizen at 8:53 a.m. The citizen reported finding a shirt in the water with a pair of pants and backpack nearby at the Lake Hunter Boar Ramp, 650 Sikes Blvd. The citizen also reported that there had been an aggressive alligator by the boat ramp during the week. Lakeland Police responded to the area, arriving at 9:06 a.m. Six different Lakeland Police Officers checked the surrounding area and did not locate anyone in the water or observe any alligator nearby. The Lakeland Fire Department was called at 10:01 a.m. in reference to utilizing their boat to search the surrounding lake area. At 11:01 they cleared from the lake after not locating anything.
On June 5th, at 5:16 p.m, police received a call from a citizen stating that they observed something large floating in the Lake Hunter with an alligator circling it. Responding officers checked the surrounding lake area and was unable to locate anything.