Little Miss Helen, a shark stolen from the San Antonio Aquarium over the weekend, was found alive and has been returned to its home, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Surveillance footage captured a man lifting the sixteen-inch female horn shark, who is less than a year old, out of her interactive tide pool exhibit with a net. She was then smuggled out of the aquarium in a baby stroller as dozens of non-shark-stealing onlookers milled about.
After Miss Helen was taken from her tank, the sharknapper took her into a back room at the aquarium, where he was joined by another man. The pair dumped a bucket that was filled with bleach solution into a nearby water tank (aquarium employees had to work to stop the 5 percent bleach solution from damaging other wildlife) and placed Miss Helen into the bucket. Meanwhile, surveillance footage showed a woman, who was carrying a child, nonchalantly walking away from the escape stroller. Seamlessly, the her two accomplices placed the bucket in the lower part of the stroller and walked it to the parking lot. According to KSAT, employees quickly realized what was happening and called the police, then followed the dripping baby stroller into the parking lot. But they couldn’t catch the thieves before they put Miss Helen in the vehicle and drive away.
“When we first got the call, we thought it was kind of a hoax being that it was Shark Week last week,” Leon Valley Police Chief Joseph Salvaggio told KSAT. “But it turns out someone actually went inside the aquarium there in Leon Valley and stole a horn shark.”
The bizarre shark heist drew national news coverage, and police were quickly able to identify some of the suspects. After tracing the getaway truck, they obtained a search warrant to look for the shark at the home of 38-year-old Antone Shannon, who let them inside and took them straight to the shark. Salvaggio told the Express-News that Shannon showed them a fake receipt for Helen, but it was “obviously doctored and the gig was up.” Shannon confessed and faces a felony theft charge.
Remarkably, the shark was fine. An aquarium employee accompanied police into Shannon’s home and found Miss Helen “thriving,” according to WOAI. Shannon reportedly had a large marine aquarium habitat in his garage, holding a lot of different animals. He told police that he had a horn shark that recently died, and wanted Miss Helen as a replacement. “Luckily the thief was someone who knew what he was doing,” Salvaggio said.
The other two suspects in the surveillance footage are expected to face charges as well, Salvaggio told the Express-News. The woman will reportedly meet with police Tuesday for questioning. Their names have not yet been released to the public.
The aquarium’s assistant husbandry director, Jamie Shank, removed Miss Helen from Shannon’s tank for inspection after her perilous journey. “I am so, so happy that we got her back, and she’s healthy. She appears very healthy,” she said at a press conference on Monday night. “I was devastated when I found out that it happened. And now that we actually have her here, I’m overjoyed. I cannot believe what she’s been through. She’s a little fighter, she’s a survivor—I’m very proud of her.”