A 26-year-old man who fled from officers with a Bengal tiger inside his SUV has been arrested, but police said Monday night they still don't know where large exotic cat is.
Houston police were called to the residential neighborhood Sunday evening, when the app Nextdoor sent a notice to neighbors about a Bengal tiger roaming freely on a residential street, laying on grassy front yards and at one point stalking a neighbor across the street.
Videos of the bizarre encounter show one neighbor, an off-duty deputy, tried to keep the tiger at bay at gunpoint, while the owner of the tiger dragged the cat back into the house, pulling it along by the collar on its neck.
By the time officers arrived, the owner of the tiger had loaded the animal into a white Jeep Cherokee and fled. Police spotted the vehicle at one point Sunday, but the owner fled until police lost sight of the SUV.
On Monday morning, Houston police asked residents to be on the lookout for a white Jeep Cherokee with paper plates, and a tiger inside.
"Obviously, if you see a Cherokee with a big tiger in it, it'd be good to call us," Houston Police Commander Ronald Borza told reporters Monday.
Cuevas—who was out on bond at the time on an unrelated murder charge in a neighboring county—was in custody by Monday night, but authorities were asking anyone with information as to the tiger's whereabouts to contact police.
The strange encounter Sunday night made headlines nationwide as authorities sparked a search for the tiger and its owner.
The animal was seen walking in the front yard of a home, at times lying down in view of neighbors. Eventually, one neighbor confronted the tiger at gunpoint as the animal slowly walked toward him across the street.
"No, sir. No, sir," the deputy yells in one video as the tiger stalks him across the street.
The deputy told local TV station KHOU that the tiger did not appear to be aggressive, and he did not want to shoot it during the approximately five-minute confrontation.
"It did stalk me across the road, but it did not look super aggressive," he told the station.
As the off-duty deputy attempted to hold the tiger at bay, the apparent owner came outside and attempted to take the animal back into the house.
"Fuck you and your fucking tiger," the off-duty deputy told the man. "Get the fuck back inside right now."
"I'mma get him," the man said.
Houston police later identified the man as Victor Hugo Cuevas, a 26-year-old who was out on bond.
Cuevas, Borza said, is currently facing an unrelated murder charge in Fort Bend County. The case was filed in November, but authorities did not release further details in that case.
Fleeing from the police and being in possession of the tiger could violate his bond terms, police said.
Late Monday night, police tweeted that he had been arrested.
"Victor Hugo Cuevas is in custody," they wrote. "The whereabouts of the tiger are not yet known."
Police are also looking for two monkeys believed to be owned by Cuevas.
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department said it's unknown where the monkeys are and whether Cuevas also had them in the SUV when he fled Sunday.
"We don't know where the monkeys are," Borza said. "My main concern right now is focusing on finding him and finding the tiger because what I don't want him to do is harm the tiger."
Monkeys are allowed in the city of Houston if they are under 30 pounds, he said, but tigers are not allowed within city limits.
He said police are investigating whether the tiger may be connected to a similar incident in 2019, when Houston police found another tiger living in the garage of a home.
"This is a small circle of people that deal with exotic animals," he said.
Although rare, authorities in Houston are called about once a year regarding large exotic animals in the city, he said.
"It's just not a good idea," Borza said. "You never know when the animal's gonna turn on you."
The owner of the house where Cuevas was reportedly living told KHOU he was in the beginning stages of evicting his tenants, who had initially told him they owned no pets.
This post has been updated with the news that Victor Hugo Cuevas has been taken into custody.