SINCE REMOVED FROM THE MIAMI HERALD.
An off-duty Miami police officer arrested at gunpoint an animal-rights activist outside a marine-mammal rehabilitation site in Key Largo.
Arnold Christopher Lagergren, 41, also of Miami, is charged with four misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism for alleged incidents at the Marine Mammal Conservancy. Police reports describe him as affiliated with the international Animal Liberation Front organization, which advocates “direct action” against animal captivity.
The Marine Mammal Conservancy was founded to treat stranded whales and dolphins and prepare them for return to the wild. However, two pilot whales from a Lower Keys stranding in May were turned over to SeaWorld after experts concluded that neither a calf nor a sickly adult could survive if released.
Javier Ortiz, described in a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office report as an off-duty Miami police sergeant, was volunteering Saturday with the conservancy when he blocked Lagergren’s car and pulled a gun on the suspect. Monroe County Court Judge Regan Ptomey set bonds totaling $30,000 on the four charges, according to court records.
“This is a very politically charged situation, obviously,” said Richard Wunsch, Lagergren’s defense attorney.
“It does raise concerns,” Wunsch said. “Anybody would wonder how you get hit with a $30,000 bond on four misdemeanors after being arrested by an armed guy 100 miles from his jurisdiction.”
On Saturday, Monroe Deputy Sever Hustad was responding to a 2:50 p.m. trespass report at the Hampton Inn, adjacent to the MMC site at mile marker 102.2. Hustad said he saw a Dodge Challenger speed up to cut off a Ford Mustang that was headed toward U.S. 1 from a Hampton Inn driveway.
“The driver of the Dodge Challenger immediately identified himself as a law enforcement officer, taking the driver of the Ford Mustang out at gunpoint and immediately securing the driver with handcuffs,” Hustad wrote.
Ortiz told the deputy that he had just entered the water at MMC to work with the 12-foot adult whale when he saw Lagergren taking photos from across a canal. Lagergren, who had been warned previously to stay off MMC property, then crossed onto the site, Ortiz told Hustad.
The Miami officer said Lagergren attempted to tamper with an MMC fence, then fled.
On Aug. 21, former MMC official Robert Lingenfelser told deputies that at 4:15 a.m., he saw two men trying to dismantle a fence across a canal, marking an area used for animal rehabilitation. The two ran off but Lingenfelser said he recognized Lagergren from previous encounters.
Lingenfelser said an FBI agent told him that Lagergren “is going to attempt to release any caged animals [or] mammals into their natural habitat.”
The FBI has described the Animal Liberation Front as a domestic terrorist organization known to be involved in crimes.
The adult pilot whale was moved to Orlando late Sunday.