Trio steals shark from aquarium by disguising it as a baby

Authorities thought 911 call was a hoax

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

LEON VALLEY, Texas - Leon Valley police say a well-trained trio took Shark Week too far, stealing a horn shark from the San Antonio Aquarium Saturday afternoon.

According to Leon Valley police Chief Joseph Salvaggio, the group stole the shark from an open pool where visitors are allowed to reach in and pet the various species in the tank. Two men and a woman are wanted in connection with the theft.

Salvaggio said one of the men grabbed the shark by its tail while the others wrapped it in a wet blanket and put it into a stroller.

The group carted off the shark in the stroller undetected. Aquarium staff contacted police when they discovered the shark was missing around 3 p.m., approximately 45 minutes after the theft.

"When we first got the call, we thought it was kind of a hoax being that it was Shark Week last week," Salvaggio said. "But it turns out someone actually went inside the aquarium there in Leon Valley and stole a horn shark."

Salvaggio said that the group had to have some knowledge of aquariums and likely went to the aquarium specifically for that shark.

"It's very obvious the person knows what he's looking for and went there specifically for that area," Salvaggio said of the surveillance video. "We got a good look at the person -- or persons involved. There's three people involved."

According to Salvaggio, the three got away in a maroon-colored truck. Police have tracked down the truck and are trying to determine who was driving the truck at the time of the theft, if not the truck's owner.

Police said they have a person of interest in custody and have impounded the truck. So far, no charges have been filed.

The suspects, when caught, are facing felony theft charges in connection with the case. Salvaggio said police are also exploring whether federal charges can be filed against the shark thieves, adding that he doesn't expect the shark to survive.

"We'll be surprised if the shark survives. We sure hope it does, but being outside of that environment that it's made to be in --  the warm water, the salt water -- there's a good chance it won't make it."

While horn sharks are carnivores, Salvaggio said that their diet is mostly composed of crustaceans, making it an ideal species of shark to put in an open aquarium.

Those with information in the shark theft are asked to call Sgt. Eddie Gonzales with the Leon Valley Police Department at 210-812-3347.

Editor's Note: The Leon Valley Police Department initially described the shark as 3-feet long, however, San Antonio Aquarium staff said the shark is actually 1-and-a-half feet long.

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