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Police kill tiger as it lunged at officer

Owner said big cat was not dangerous


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Steve Sipek, wearing a shirt stained by the blood of his dead tiger, stands with his fiancee, Lynda Turek, as he says his tiger posed no threat.
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Tiger owner Steve Sipek says police did not need to kill animal.
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Florida
Animals
Miami (Florida)

LOXAHATCHEE, Florida (CNN) -- A 600-pound tiger owned by an actor who once portrayed Tarzan was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon, a wildlife official said.

The tiger was spotted by two wildlife officers who were searching for it, and the officers prepared to shoot the animal with a tranquilizer dart, said Florida Wildlife Officer Jorge Pino.

But the animal lunged toward one of the officers, and "the officer felt threatened enough where he needed to use lethal force," Pino said.

Former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek, however, disputed that version of events. He said the tiger, named Bobo, was sleeping and posed no threat.

"They came upon him immediately and shot him five times. Bobo never left the place he was laying," Sipek told CNN, his shirt covered in the animal's blood from embracing the dead tiger.

Earlier in the day, Sipek had predicted officers would kill his tiger because of "the way they were behaving."

Asked why officers took lethal force, he told CNN, "They want glory. They want to be able to say, 'We killed the tiger. We are the winners. We did our job. We saved the people from this vicious tiger.' "

Brett Norton, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the tiger was shot with an M4 rifle. The animal's body has since been taken to a secure location for an autopsy.

Wildlife officers said Bobo bit and seriously injured a woman who was working at Sipek's home two years ago.

"Bobo was not dangerous, never was," insisted Sipek.

"The woman that he hurt -- [it] was not because he intentionally hurt her. She was on the ground and looked like something unusual. All he did was grab her. It does not take very much for the fangs to penetrate human skin."

Sipek's property also houses several other big cats, and is surrounded in part by 12-foot high concrete walls.

It was not immediately clear how the tiger got out. Sipek told CNN he believes somebody opened one of three doors, allowing Bobo to escape. He added that he has had numerous problems with people trying to harm his animals in the past.

Residents near the compound in Loxahatchee, about 65 miles north of Miami, had been warned to bring their pets and other domestic animals inside houses or barns, and to stay inside themselves until Bobo was caught.

Willie Puz, a spokesman for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the former actor has valid and current permits to keep such animals, but added that his agency will be investigating the tiger's escape.

Sipek played Tarzan in 1960s B movies.

CNN correspondent John Zarrella contributed to this report.


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