Iguana hunter, mistaken for gunman by Rotonda West schools, apologizes

Roy Wathen was using a pellet gun to hunt the invasive lizards in Rotonda West on Tuesday; but, someone called 911 to report a man who appeared to have a rifle near Vineland Elementary. The consequences of those actions led to two school lockdowns, dozens of worried parents and terrified students.

“Within a minute,” Wathen said, “there was at least 30 officers surrounding, helicopters flying, it was scary, to say the least.”

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office deputies detained Wathen for nearly four hours.

“I was embarrassed,” Wathen said. “Very embarrassed.”

Law enforcement placed Vineland and nearby L.A. Ainger Middle School on lockdown. The move made the neighborhood chaotic, parents anxious and students fearful.

“It was kind of bone-chilling,” said Sophie Eichenberger, an L.A. Ainger Middle School student. “Some kids kind of crying and I don’t blame them. That was kind of scary.”

Wathen called the incident a misunderstanding. Wathen told WINK News he has worked with homeowners in the area to trap and shoot iguanas. The father of two said he regrets his actions, which caused pain and panic for many.

Wathen has a charge of trespassing from one property. The suspect said he will now stick to using traps near schools and notify law enforcement whenever working with his pellet gun.

“I can’t take back what happened; but, I’d like to send out my most sincere apologies,” Wathen said. “It was purely a mistake and an accident and it will never happen again.”

Reporter:Erika Jackson
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