Man accused of punching Tampa police horse at Gasparilla

Paradegoers celebrate at the Captain Morgan section of Gasparilla on Saturday in downtown Tampa. Police said they made 25 arrests at Gasparilla, on par with last year's numbers. ZACK WITTMAN   |   Times
Paradegoers celebrate at the Captain Morgan section of Gasparilla on Saturday in downtown Tampa. Police said they made 25 arrests at Gasparilla, on par with last year's numbers.ZACK WITTMAN | Times
Published February 2 2016
Updated February 3 2016

TAMPA — Revelers relieved themselves on sidewalks, seafaring pirates swayed on not-so-seaworthy legs and a few got popped for bringing pot to the party.

As far as Gasparilla goes, most of the arrests made by Tampa police over the weekend were unsurprising, especially to those familiar with the debauchery historically associated with the city's century-old house party.

Underage drinking. Disorderly conduct. Boating under the influence.

And … striking a police horse?

Now that's something, even for Gasparilla.

The victim is Chad, a 19-year-old police horse that has served on the Tampa Police Department's mounted patrol unit for more than a decade.

Chad loves kids. Chad is an Olympian. And Chad, police said, did not provoke this.

According to arrest records, the chocolate brown thoroughbred was minding his own business around 3 p.m. Saturday when a guy in a red Hawaiian shirt sidled on by and clocked him in the schnoz. No explanation for the attack was given in the arrest report.

"He was drinking," Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said of the Hawaiian shirt-clad man. "So that likely played a role."

The Hawaiian-shirted man is 20-year-old Jacob Allen McKenna, a resident of Longwood, police said. He was arrested on charges of striking a police horse and possession of an altered identification card.

It all went down during Saturday's parade, according to this police account:

Riding atop Chad, Cpl. Ellen Schantz emerged from an alley near W Morrison Avenue and S Edison Avenue and saw McKenna walking toward them on the sidewalk.

"He looked directly at (Chad) and me," Schantz wrote in a police report. "He raised his (right) hand and hit Chad in the nose with a closed fist."

Schantz arrested McKenna. He spent the rest of Gasparilla in the Orient Road Jail and was released around 2 a.m. Sunday on $750 bail.

In his booking photo, Schantz still had on that red Hawaiian shirt, also known as an Aloha shirt. His mug shot wasn't the only one that screamed "Gasparilla."

Overall, Tampa police said they made 25 arrests at Gasparilla: 23 were arrested for misdemeanors and two were arrested on felony charges. Officers also issued one open container citation.

The arrest numbers this year were on par with 2015, but far lower than in 2013 and 2014, where Tampa police made somewhere around 70 and 40 arrests, respectively.

"Every year, we warn people about what the rules are and that we're going to be enforcing the rules," said Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty. "People were obviously in a noisy party mood, but I think they knew not the cross the line."

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

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