Man who fled Houston police with tiger in vehicle identified as murder suspect awaiting trial

HOUSTON — A Texas man who fled patrol officers with a tiger, who had been roaming a Houston neighborhood, will be charged with felony evading arrest after he sped away with the animal in his Jeep.

Update 9:42 p.m. EDT May 10: Michael Elliott, an attorney representing Victor Hugo Cuevas, confirmed to KPRC that his client was arrested at his parents’ home in Richmond, Texas, late Monday.

Cuevas told police that, despite media reports, he is not the owner of the tiger, and he is working with authorities to locate both the tiger and its owner, Elliott told the TV station.

Elliott also declined to elaborate on Cueva’s connection to the animal.

Update 6:55 p.m. EDT May 10: Houston police continued their search Monday evening for 28-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas, who was charged in November with murder in Fort Bend County and was out on $250,000 bond awaiting a July court date.

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According to court records, Cuevas is accused of shooting and killing a man in the neighboring county in July 2017, KTRK reported.

“My main concern right now is focusing on finding (Cuevas) and finding the tiger because what I don’t want him to do is harm that tiger. We have plenty of places we can take that tiger and keep it safe and give it a home for the rest of its life,” Houston police Cmdr. Ron Borza said during a Monday news conference.

Tigers are not allowed within Houston city limits unless the handler, such as a zoo, is licensed to have exotic animals, The Associated Press reported.

“If that tiger was to get out and start doing some damage yesterday, I’m sure one of these citizens would have shot the tiger. We have plenty of neighbors out here with guns, and we don’t want to see that. It’s not the animal’s fault. It’s the breeder’s fault. It’s unacceptable,” Borza said.

Original report: No, there wasn’t something in the water; a tiger was really seen roaming a Houston neighborhood.

The tiger was wearing a collar, and neighbors believe it was someone’s pet.

Maria Torres recorded a video of the larger-than-normal house cat and shared it with KTRK and KHOU.

The video showed someone grabbing the collar and then taking the tiger inside, but not before another person holding a gun, eventually identified as an off-duty sheriff’s department officer, confronted the person who led the tiger inside.

Dispatchers were heard on recordings talking about the situation, KHOU reported.

“This is about a tiger. I’m on the phone with the caller, who is a sheriff’s department sergeant, and he’s holding the owner, and the owner is trying to leave,” KHOU reported dispatchers as saying.

The sergeant said he only pointed the gun at the tiger, not at a person, KHOU reported.

Neighbors told KTRK that the tiger was taken away in a white vehicle, but police are continuing to investigate.

Neighbors also told the news station that the family that lives in the home where the tiger was taken has been in the house for less than a year and stay to themselves, but this isn’t the first time they saw an unusual animal there.

Jose Ramos told KTRK that he once saw a capuchin monkey in the home’s window but figured it could be domesticated.

Certain animals that are considered “dangerous wild animals” must be registered with either local or county officials, despite that owning of many is still considered illegal within Houston city limits and could bring a fine of between $500 and $2,000, KTRK reported.

They also have to have $100,000 animal insurance, and in a case of a tiger, keep it at least 1000 feet from other homes, schools or child care facilities, KHOU reported. Texas also requires the owner to provide a copy of the registration to the state and to follow rules for caging.

Those animals can include lions, tigers, ocelots, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, lynx, servals, caracals, hyenas, bears, coyotes, jackals, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans or gorillas.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.