Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, was out on bond for a prior murder charge in Fort Bend County on Sunday when neighbors spotted the tiger in a front yard, Houston Police Commander Ron Borza said in a news conference.
Jose Ramos, 50, who lives next door, was eating on Sunday evening when he looked out the window and saw a tiger sitting in his front yard.
“I had to pinch myself,” he said. “Was this real?”
Ramos went outside to assess the situation and get a closer look at the tiger, his hands trembling as he snapped some photos and video. “It seemed a bit skittish,” Ramos said. “But he was making full eye contact with me.”
An off-duty deputy who lives nearby showed up after seeing some photos of the tiger Ramos had posted on a neighborhood email forum, Ramos said.
The deputy had his weapon trained on the tiger when Cuevas came out of a house, pleading with the deputy not to shoot the tiger, Ramos said. “He sounded very stressed out, very anguished by the mere fact that the deputy was aiming at the tiger and ready to shoot him.”
When Houston police arrived at the scene, Cuevas put the tiger in a white SUV and drove off, Borza said.
“There was a brief pursuit, and the man got away with the tiger,” Borza said. Owning a tiger in Houston is a Class C misdemeanor, Borza said, punishable with a maximum $500 fine.
Police tweeted late Monday that Cuevas was in custody, but the tiger is still on the loose. Cuevas is charged with evading arrest/detention with a vehicle, according to Fort Bend County Jail records.
The tiger is a 9-month-old male named “India,” according to Michael Elliott, the attorney for Cuevas.
A Fort Bend County magistrate set a $50,000 bond Tuesday morning for Cuevas. He had been out on bond for a separate murder charge, and county prosecutors are now seeking to revoke his bond in that case. A hearing on that motion is set for Friday, according to Wesley Wittig, Fort Bend County Executive Assistant District Attorney.
Ramos had no idea a man charged with murder was living next door to him in this family friendly community — and with a tiger, no less. Police say Cuevas was not the owner of the home.
Cuevas was previously charged with murder for allegedly shooting and killing a man in 2017. Court documents allege he has been in multiple violations of his bond since he was first arrested for murder in 2017.
Separately, he was also out on bond from a different charge earlier this year in Austin County of evading arrest or detention in a vehicle, according to court records. He will likely stay in Fort Bend County until the hearing on Friday, according to Wittig.
Cuevas’s attorney had asked for a $5,000 bond for the evading arrest charge.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the day that the tiger was seen. It was on Sunday.