Most people would attempt to stay far away from water that contained crocodiles. But police in Florida say that 23-year-old Brandon Keith Hatfield jumped into a pond that contained at least one 9-foot crocodile, on purpose.
A crocodile latched onto his leg before he could get out of the water, but Hatfield survived the attack with non-fatal injuries.
Hatfield was arrested November 6, 2018 and is facing felony charges. St. Augustine police said the 23-year-old broke into an animal farm and damaged the property, before he was injured by the crocodile.
For clarity going forward: we are not using “alligator” and “crocodile” interchangeably. The park in question is called the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. But the park also has a crocodile enclosure.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police: Brandon Keith Hatfield Was Caught on Surveillance Video at the Alligator Farm Damaging Property
Workers at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park called police early in the morning on November 6 to report that someone had vandalized the property overnight. They had also discovered a “Croc”-style shoe in the area where Nile crocodiles were kept. Zookeepers told the Florida Times-Union they also found shorts and a trail of blood leading to a 20-foot tall structure.
St. Augustine police arrived and took a look at the surveillance video. The suspect, identified as Brandon Keith Hatfield, was seen arriving at the park around 7:45 p.m. the evening of November 5.
Hatfield has been accused of damaging several exhibits as well as the snack bar. Police said Hatfield caused about $5,000 in property damage.
2. Police Soon Realized They Had Already Been in Contact With Brandon Hatfield That Morning; He Had Been Found Crawling in a Nearby Lawn in His Underwear With an Injured Foot
Shortly before 7 a.m. on November 6, St. Augustine police had responded to a call across the street from the Alligator Farm. A neighbor had spotted a person crawling around a backyard.
When police arrived, they discovered Brandon Hatfield wearing only his underwear. He was crawling because his foot was injured. He told police he had been bitten by an alligator.
Hatfield was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. It was during that time frame that the Alligator Farm called police to report that the park had been vandalized, and had also discovered the clothing and the bloody trail. Police figured out that the two calls were related.
Hatfield then reportedly tried to escape. Police said they caught him in a retention pond outside the hospital.
3. WATCH: Hatfield Was Seen On Video Jumping Into the Crocodile Pond
A portion of the surveillance video from the Alligator Farm was shared to YouTube. Police said the person in the video is Brandon Hatfield. He was bitten by a crocodile because he apparently wanted to swim with them. He stripped down to his boxers, and took off the Crocs he was wearing, before getting into the water.
Check out the video: he climbs on top of a platform and jumps into the water as if it’s a diving board. At :15 in, you can see the crocodile lunge at Hatfield along the edge of the water and latched onto either his leg or foot. But the crocodile must not have been too interested in pursuing Hatfield, because he can be seen slowly crawling onto shore.
The director of the Alligator Farm, John Brueggen, expressed his surprise to the Florida Times-Union. “In our 125-year history, this is the first time anyone has tried to go swimming with the crocodiles.”
Police spokesperson Cecilia Aiple expressed similar disbelief. “He… took a jump into a pond infested with big crocodiles.”
4. Brandon Hatfield Faces Two Felony Counts & Was Being Held Without Bond
Brandon Keith Hatfield was booked into jail at 3:14 p.m. on November 6. Inmate records show that no bond was set.
Hatfield faces two felony charges: burglary, and damaging property/criminal mischief. Both are listed as felonies. The jail record indicates that if a judge decides to grant bond later on, it would likely be set at $15,000 for the burglary and $2,500 for the criminal mischief charge.
Hatfield was also listed as being in violation of probation. The Miami Herald reported Hatfield was previously arrested for drug possession and theft.
It was not immediately clear if Hatfield had an attorney.
5. Hatfield Was From Green Cove Springs, Florida & Attended Florida State College
Jail records confirm that 23-year-old Brandon Keith Hatfield was from Green Cove Springs, Florida. It is located in northeastern Florida, about 25 miles west of St. Augustine.
According to Hatfield’s Facebook page, he attended Florida State College in Jacksonsville. But the page does not include dates and it is unclear whether he graduated.
Hatfield does not appear to have used his Facebook page recently, or perhaps made more recent posts private. In his last public post, from November of 2014, Hatfield wrote, “How girls going to do shit to get attention then get mad when somebody new try to hit them up hahaah these girlzz crazy bruh hahaha.”