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Lakeland alligator found with body in its mouth likely caught, police still investigating (w/911 audio)

Lakeland police are investigating an alligator seen with a body in its mouth. [Sgt. Gary Gross, Lakeland Police Department]
Lakeland police are investigating an alligator seen with a body in its mouth. [Sgt. Gary Gross, Lakeland Police Department]
Published Jun. 8, 2016

LAKELAND — Trappers were able to capture the 9-foot alligator they believed was spotted with a body in its mouth in Polk County, officials said Wednesday.

Police said Wednesday afternoon the medical examiner found human remains inside the alligator's stomach. But other details released by Lakeland police are providing little clarity on what happened leading up to the gruesome gator sighting Tuesday afternoon.

Dispatchers received a 911 call around 1:40 p.m. that an alligator had a body in its mouth.

"I've got a dead bodyover here in the lake," the caller said. "Uh, it looks like an alligator is trying to pull it down under."

The caller tells the dispatcher he's sure the body is dead — noting a strong smell.

LISTEN IN: Hear all the audio from the 911 call

When officers arrived to the scene, they saw the gator with what appeared to be a man's body in its mouth at the shoreline of Lake Hunter Drive and Cresap Street.

The alligator let go of the body, then swam off.

It's unlikely that was the first spotting.

Police got a call on the morning of June 4 because someone spotted a shirt in the water with a pair of pants and backpack near the Lake Hunter boat ramp. That same caller also reported an "aggressive alligator" by the boat ramp during the week, police said.

Officers and firefighters searched the area and waters for about two hours, according to Lakeland police, and cleared it after not finding anything.

In the late afternoon on June 5, police got another call. This time, the caller said they saw something large floating in the lake and an alligator circling it.

Investigators said it appears the body was in the water for more than one day, based on its decomposition alone.

But that won't be known for sure until the medical examiner does an autopsy report. Police said the autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday morning. The man's age and identity are still unknown.

There are no missing person reports in Lakeland that match the man found in the lake, police said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.