BUSHNELL, FL — Family and friends are shocked by the arrest of a 74-year-old Sumter County man after he shot and killed an alligator that attacked his stepson.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office reports Reginald Blanton shot the alligator twice with a handgun when he discovered his horses acting strangely and spotted the large gator near them.
Blanton’s stepson, 58-year-old Jack Hildreth, then approached the alligator.
Blanton contends he was just protecting his horses.
“I took my gun with me when I went out there because I didn’t know what the hell was out there,” he said.
When he saw the alligator just a few feet away from his horses, Blanton says he took out a 9mm handgun and shot it. “I shot at him four times, and they said I hit him three,” he said.
His stepson then arrived and got about eight feet away from the alligator when it suddenly attacked. “Whenever he raised up after my stepson, it looked like he was shot out of a cannon. I had never seen nothing like it,” Blanton said.
Hildreth says he couldn’t see anything but teeth. “It was a burst of lighting like. It was just a surprise,” Hildreth said.
He said he assumed the alligator was dead as he approached because it wasn’t moving. But it then grabbed his leg and gave him a severe wound.
“The gator had just got the whole tip and his mouth is the only part that got me and he got the back of my calf too,” Hildreth said.
A teenage friend helped pull Hildreth away from the alligator.
Arriving Sumter County deputies surrounded the animal, and a licensed trapper killed it.
Hildreth was taken to an Ocala hospital and treated for severe injuries.
Now, friends of the family say they are shocked because Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Blanton for unlawfully killing the alligator.
The family says in addition to dealing with medical expenses for Hildreth, they’ve been forced to put up bail money for Blanton and hire an attorney – all because of an aggressive alligator on their private property.