Accused Shark Thief: 'I'm An Activist, Not A Criminal'
SAN ANTONIO, TX — The man accused of smuggling a shark out of a San Antonio aquarium in a baby stroller Saturday says he did so because he was concerned about the sea creature’s wellbeing. Anthony Shannon, who faces felony theft charges, told a local television station “it was wrong to just take him like that, but at that point in time, it was just something I had to do.”
The heist of “Miss Helen,” as the shark at the San Antonio Aquarium is known, was caught on surveillance video. Shannon, 38, is shown grabbing the 16-inch-long shark from a petting tank and later wheeling it away in a baby stroller. Miss Helen was returned to the aquarium Monday night and Shannon was released from custody Tuesday afternoon after posting $10,000 bond.
Two others interviewed in the theft of the gray horn shark have not been identified.
“I’m an activist, not a criminal,” Shannon told San Antonio television station KENS in an interview from his home, which has three saltwater tanks filled with dozens of fish and five sharks.
The self-professed activist, who says he has kept marine life in his home for 30 years, said he confessed everything to police and “was honest with them straight.”
He told the television station that on Saturday, he saw Miss Helen in distress after a guest squeezed her.
“Then I pulled the net out, I told the customers to get out of the way, ‘I’m going to quarantine the shark,’ ” Shannon said. “I’m an activist, not a criminal, and basically I don’t want to produce any crimes that will make me lose my family or big charges and to open an eye and make things better.”
He said “it’s regretful to do something like that, but if it’s an emergency for an animal, then no, it’s not.”
RELATED: Hapless Thieves Steal Shark From San Antonio Aquarium: Police
Shannon claims to have received a tip from a friend about a month ago that marine life were frequently dying at the aquarium and posed as a salt distributor for Instant Ocean to get “a full tour” of the facility and conduct tests on the water.
In a statement, the aquarium said it had no reason to doubt that Shannon was an Instant Ocean distributor and weren’t suspicious until they recognized him on the surveillance video.
Marine life are well cared for and water quality tests done daily throughout the aquarium “show that everything is within normal parameters on the day Helen went missing,” the aquarium said.
“Any deceased animals he may have seen while in our back areas were an unfortunate part of being in this business,” the statement read. “We take the best possible care of our animals throughout their lives, which unfortunately do end eventually. A giant pacific octopus only lives for about three years and are rarely acquired as babies, giving us only a short time with these amazing creatures.
“Part of taking great care of animals is giving them the best possible diet, full of vitamins and the nutrients they need to survive. Many of our aquatic animals eat things such as krill and capelin, which can be somewhat oily. This oil can cause a slight sheen on the water after a feeding. Our filtration systems clean this out pretty quickly but it takes a few minutes to completely clear the water.”
Miss Helen doesn’t appear to have suffered an ill effects as a result of the caper.
“We appreciate all of the love and support everyone has shown for Helen and invite everyone to see her when she’s back on exhibit,” the aquarium said.
Shannon is charged with felony theft of property valued at $2,500 to less than $30,000, but he claims Miss Helen is only worth about $800.
He has a long rap sheet in Bexar County, according to television station KSAT, which cited court records that show eight previous arrests for aggravated assault, evading arrest, theft of a vehicle and marijuana possession.
Lead photo of Anthony Shannon via Bexar County Sheriff’s Office
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