7-foot gator scares kids heading to school in Oldsmar

5:47 PM, Sep 13, 2010   |    comments
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OLDSMAR, Florida -- Given her experience as a crossing guard in Pinellas County, Denise Leone knows on Monday mornings she may run into some hard-nosed, even cranky characters.

But on this Monday morning, Denise came across a jawing juvenile who was all that and down-right cold-blooded too.

"I saw a huge alligator," she says.

Huge is right. Near the crosswalk where she helps about 50 kids a morning get to classes, Denise came across a 7 1/2 foot alligator.

It was sitting just a few feet from where kids make their way across an intersection to nearby Forest Lakes Elementary.

"And he was wide. And he was blocking the whole sidewalk," she says.

Photo Gallery: Deputies wrangle gator near Pinellas school

Miranda Gonzalez, a student who rose her bike past the reptile, said "it was pretty scary."

Denise called sheriff's deputies, who in turn called a trapper. They were content to let the resting reptile stay where he was until help arrived, but then the gator started moving right toward the kids.

"And I was really afraid that something was going to happen because it was big," she said, "It wasn't a little tiny baby alligator. It was a big one."

Deputies quickly went to work, tying a rope around the alligator's neck and legs. It got so angry, they say, that it started thrashing and rolling, taking chunks of stucco out of a nearby wall.

"They had to kind of corral it," says Denise, "because it was coming closer to the corner where the kids were."

In the end, lawmen also slapped a set of handcuffs and some electrical tape on the gator, and the kids made it to school safely.

Now they can add a new "R" to their elementary learning regimen. Reading, writing, 'rithmatic - and reptile.

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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