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'It's not his tiger' | Lawyer for man at center of tiger investigation says HPD rushed to judgment

Victor Hugo Cuevas has been arrested and is in the process of being booked into the Fort Bend County jail.
Credit: Jose Ramos, witness
Tiger spotted in Houston's Memorial area on May 9, 2021

HOUSTON — The man at the center of the tiger investigation in west Houston has been taken into custody, Houston police confirmed in a tweet Monday evening.

Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, is currently being booked in the Fort Bend County Jail. Houston police said the tiger's whereabouts are still unknown.

Cuevas' lawyer spoke to the media after his client was taken into custody and said multiple times that Cuevas is not the owner of the tiger that was spotted in a west Houston neighborhood Sunday and the Houston Police Department rushed to judgment. 

RELATED: Video: Tiger spotted in west Houston neighborhood

"HPD was in such a hurry to wrap it and find their guy that they just assumed because my client was the one who caught this tiger, who went out and go it and brought it back into safety, everyone is just assuming that he is the owner of the tiger," attorney Michael Elliott said.

Elliott said police are also assuming that Cuevas was the person who put the tiger in a white Jeep Cherokee and drove away.

"He's already been convicted, which is a shame," Elliott said.

Click here to watch Elliot's full press conference

Elliot said he and Cuevas made an agreement with HPD to surrender himself at 8:15 p.m. Monday, but HPD reneged and arrested him 15 minutes earlier.

Elliot did confirm that Cuevas was the man seen on video bringing the tiger back inside the home after being confronted by an off-duty sheriff's deputy. But he doubled down on Cuevas not being the owner of the tiger and said Cuevas has information on the owner and where the tiger can be found.

Cuevas was out on bond on a July 2017 murder charge in Fort Bend County, records show. Police originally said it was a 2020 case.

Houston police arrived at the home where the tiger was spotted Monday morning to question Cuevas, but they said he loaded the Bengal tiger in a white Jeep Cherokee and took off. There was a brief chase, but they lost him, according to HPD Commander Borza.

Cuevas faces an evading arrest charge and his bond on the murder charge will be revoked, Borza said.

A neighbor who says he was the first to spot a tiger walking around a Houston neighborhood has shared a new video of the bizarre scene with KHOU 11.

Jose Ramos said the big cat was walking and lying in the grass across the street from his West Houston home on Ivy Wall Drive. It was just after 8 p.m., and he immediately alerted his neighbors through an online posting and then called 911 for help.

Ramos said police dispatchers actually asked him who they should send to help.

ALSO READ: Unusual animal sightings, incidents across the Houston area

ALSO READ: Tiger spotted in Houston's Memorial area

"It was very scary because this is a very family-oriented community, and you see lots of kids and baby strolling," Ramos told KHOU 11's Michelle Choi. "And people taking their pets, dogs and walking them. So again, the first thing I was thought was to alert the community so everybody would stay home."

Credit: Jose Ramos, witness
Tiger spotted in Houston's Memorial area on May 9, 2021

An off-duty Waller County sheriff’s deputy was nearby and saw the online posting and came to the street.

The deputy pulled out a gun as it crossed the roadway toward him. That’s when another neighbor came outside and yelled at the deputy, “don’t shoot him! Don’t shoot him!”

"Last thing I wanted to do was shoot the tiger. It didn't seem super-aggressive," Deputy Wes Manion said.

He told the man to take the tiger inside. A short time later, neighbors said they saw the man putting the tiger in his SUV and taking off before police showed up.

Not the only exotic animal?

Neighbors told reporter Michelle Choi they thought they once saw a chimpanzee or monkey in a window at the home, but they never knew a tiger was there.

One neighbor said they thought the tiger was part of an elaborate Mother’s Day prank. Others said they were scared because a child’s birthday party was taking place down the street.

The homeowner said the man had rented the house since November and he had no idea he was keeping a tiger there.

Also watch: First report of a tiger on the loose in a Houston neighborhood

He said they didn't report any animals and didn't pay a pet deposit.

The man said he was a little suspicious because he wasn't allowed to go inside the home to do repairs.

Not the first time

Residents are not allowed to keep tigers as pets in the City of Houston, although permits can be provided for owners in the unincorporated portions of Harris County and other parts of Texas.

This is the second time in the last couple of years there's been a tiger sighting in Houston. Back in February of 2019, a tiger was found in an abandoned home in southeast Houston and eventually moved to an undisclosed sanctuary in Texas.