Houston Police Commander Ron Borza has said that he believes that the missing tiger in his city is being passed around safe houses.
While they haven’t located the tiger, Mr Borza stated that he thinks it has been passed around six to eight times this week, and that the big cat is still somewhere in the Houston area, but could also be out of the country by now.
“I don't think it's out of Houston yet, maybe out of the county, but I don't think so,” Mr Borza said. “I think it's still there in Houston.”
The commander added that the Houston Police Department has received more than 200 tips on the missing wild animal, including many “sightings” that have not led anywhere in the search.
He said police have reached out to several dealers of exotic animals but were unsuccessful in their search.
Mr Borza also said the suspect Victor Cuevas is not cooperating in the case.
Mr Cuevas appeared in court on Friday during a bond hearing as prosecutors argued that he should be back in custody.
He was out on bond on a 2017 murder charge when he was charged with evading police as he allegedly drove off with the tiger in his white truck, according to law enforcement.
“So far he is, he and his lawyer, uncooperative right now. He is in a bond hearing this morning in Fort Bend County to revoke his murder bond,” Mr Borza said on Friday according to KTRK. “I’m hoping that occurs, and maybe if he goes to jail, he’d be more cooperative with us. We’ll see how that goes.”
Mr Cuevas’s lawyer told KTRK that he doesn’t think there’s enough justification for the evading charge against his client, arguing that just because you left a location where an incident took place it doesn’t mean that you are evading arrest.
Police say the tiger, a male called “India”, was last seen in a neighbourhood in West Houston on Sunday and that Mr Cuevas can be seen in a video bringing the tiger into a house and later leaving the scene, driving fast with the animal in his vehicle.
Pushing back on the arguments from law enforcement, defence attorney Michael Elliott said: “We are not even sure who is even driving the white vehicle. It leaves. They say Victor Cuevas is the driver and there is a tiger in there, but you can't see it in the video.”
“You see him leaving. You don't see any police chasing him. You don't see any red lights. You don't see anybody saying, ‘I’m a police officer, you need to stop.’ It's not evading. It's not a crime,” Mr Elliott added.
You can legally own a tiger in the state of Texas but not within the city limits of Houston. Mr Cuevas has not been charged with anything specifically related to the animal.