Victor Hugo Cuevas is the Texas man identified for his involvement with a tiger incident in a west Houston neighborhood. Cuevas, 26, was arrested on May 10. But according to Houston Police, the big cat was still on the loose.
Neighbors first spotted the tiger on Sunday, May 9, and called 911. Videos and pictures from the scene were shared widely on social media.
Cuevas’ attorney, Michael Elliott, has insisted his client does not own the tiger. Elliott has accused the Houston Police Department of rushing to judgment.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Victor Cuevas Was the Man Seen on Video Leading the Tiger Back Inside the House
The tiger was spotted on Ivy Wall Drive on May 9. It was roaming around the yards and walking in the street. Footage shared from the scene shows Waller County Deputy Wes Manion, who was off-duty at the time, pointing a gun at the tiger in case it became aggressive.
A second man, now identified as Cuevas, came outside and told Manion not to shoot the tiger. A neighbor told KPRC-TV Cuevas “leaned down and kissed the tiger, and then took him by his collar” before leading the tiger inside. Police said he then loaded the tiger into a Jeep Cherokee and drove away, KPRC reported, even leading police on a brief chase.
In a news conference on May 10, Elliott acknowledged it was Cuevas in the video footage. Elliott said Cuevas “caught” the tiger and brought it back inside the house to safety.
2. Cuevas Doesn’t Own the Tiger, According to His Lawyer
Elliott repeatedly insisted the tiger does not belong to Cuevas and that his client had done nothing wrong. He also said police had “assumed” Cuevas was the same person who had driven away with the tiger in the SUV.
During the news conference, Elliot claimed there was “no evidence” to prove it had been Cuevas behind the wheel. He added Cuevas does not own a white SUV. Elliott said he doesn’t know who drove away with the tiger.
Manion earlier explained to KPRC that he had tried to stop the driver from leaving with the tiger. Manion said the driver “cut through the neighbor’s yard” to avoid Houston Police officers as they arrived in the neighborhood. There was a brief chase but the SUV got away, he said.
3. Cuevas Was Arrested at His Parent’s House & Charged With Evading Arrest
Before his arrest, Cuevas was communicating with federal and state officials to help them find the tiger and the animal’s owner, Elliott said. The attorney claimed Houston Police pulled a “double-cross” and arrested his client “before we could even finish helping them.”
Elliott said he had arranged for Cuevas to turn himself in to authorities. But according to Elliott, Houston Police decided to arrest Cuevas before the agreed-upon time.
NBC News reported Cuevas was arrested at his parents’ house in the city of Richmond in Fort Bend County. Richmond is part of the Houston metropolitan area.
Cuevas was booked into the Fort Bend County Jail after 8 p.m. on May 10, according to inmate records. He has been charged with felony evading arrest.
4. Cuevas Was Out on Bond for a 2017 Murder Charge at the Time of the Tiger Incident
Cuevas is facing a murder charge in Fort Bend County. According to the affidavit Heavy located on the Fort Bend County courts website, Cuevas is accused of shooting and killing the victim, Osiekhuemen Omobhude, on July 14, 2017. The shooting happened in a parking lot outside of a Sushi Hana restaurant.
Witnesses told investigators they saw two men firing weapons as Omobhude got into his vehicle. According to the affidavit, witnesses said they could see the shooters’ faces before they raced away on motorcycles. At least one witness said he saw Cuevas pull on a “facemask with a skull design” before he fled the scene.
A witness later identified Cuevas from a photo lineup. Cuevas was charged with murder. At the time of the tiger incident, Cuevas was out on bond, the Associated Press reported. Elliott told local media Cuevas had a court hearing scheduled for July in the murder case. But Elliott expressed doubt the hearing would proceed as scheduled due to the new arrest.
5. Police Said Cuevas May Own Monkeys
As Cuevas’ attorney acknowledged, the footage from May 9 indicates Cuevas has experience dealing with exotic animals. But investigators were working to determine whether Cuevas owned any himself.
Elliott has denied the tiger belonged to Cuevas. Houston Police Commander Ron Borza told the AP Cuevas had two monkeys inside the Houston house. But as KTRK-TV reported, officials didn’t find any other animals inside when they searched the house.
KTRK-TV also reported that Cuevas had several photos and videos on his Instagram account alongside exotic animals. The TV station reported finding videos of two monkeys, videos of Cuevas feeding a baby bear and photos “cuddling with a young tiger.”