A drug bust in Coatesville took a surprising turn when police discovered a 3-foot-long alligator during the search of a home.
Authorities also found heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, more than $5,000 in cash, and drug packaging materials, a discovery that led to the arrests of three men.
Irvin “Gotti” Hawkins, 31, of Coatesville; Aki Gathright, 35, of Philadelphia; and Tyrone Jackson, 40, of Columbia, Pa. were sent to Chester County Prison, officials said Thursday. The gator was sent to the Brandywine Zoo.
“Drug dealers will do just about anything to project an image of danger in order to protect their drugs and cash,” Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said in a statement. “Some drug dealers use pit bulls or snakes. These drug traffickers kept an alligator in the house.”
On Feb. 8, the three men were at the Gibbons Avenue home as authorities executed a search warrant. Each of them, police said, had drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Authorities said the men told investigators the alligator in their kitchen was a caiman, a species of Central and South American reptile that is shorter in length than some others. Authorities later determined the creature to be an American alligator, which can grow to measure 8- to 10-feet long as an adult.
The gator was taken to the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, where it will spend the summer as an education animal, authorities said. After that, it will be moved to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida.
“We will provide care for the alligator and ensure it’s healthy during its stay with the zoo,” Brandywine Zoo xirector Brint Spencer said in a statement.
A judge set bail for Hawkins, who rented the home, at $250,000; for Jackson, $75,000; and for Gathright, $50,000. All three men await preliminary hearings on Feb. 20.
No attorney for Hawkins was listed on court documents. Attorneys for Gathright and Jackson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The men all faces charges of drug trafficking and related offenses. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no criminal charge for possession of an alligator, authorities said.