The three suspects arrived at the San Antonio Aquarium, in Texas, on Saturday afternoon armed with a baby stroller and a net.
The two men and one woman later left the attraction allegedly with a stolen gray horn shark called Miss Helen in tow. The trio had fished the 16-inch animal out of a petting tank, wrapped it up in a blanket and stashed it inside a bucket (also taken from the venue) in the bottom of the stroller.
They had “staked out the pool for more than an hour” before the heist, per the aquarium.
Aquarium general manager Jenny Spellman challenged the suspects in the parking lot. One of the men claimed his son was sick and he had to leave, she said. It’s not clear, however, whether he was pretending the shark was his son. He refused to let Spellman search the vehicle and drove away.
Police traced the truck Monday and found the shark in a nearby home. She was in “very good condition” and returned to the aquarium. “She is doing good so far, and we are hopeful she will recover fully from the shock and return to her home she is used to,” the aquarium wrote on Facebook.
The two men, who have not been named, have confessed to the theft, Leon Valley Police Chief Joseph Salvaggio told a press conference Monday night. The woman is yet to be questioned, but all three could face federal charges.
The shark was “lucky” that one of the alleged thieves “knew what he was doing” and was “able to continue to see that animal thrive” in the “almost a mock-up” of the aquarium he had in his garage, said Salvaggi.
He also revealed how officers initially thought the call “was kind of a hoax being that it was ‘Shark Week’ last week.”
Aquarium staff said they were thrilled at the shark’s return. “I’m so so happy that we got her back and she appears very healthy,” Jamie Shank told KSAT. “I can’t believe what she’s been through, she’s a little fighter. She’s a survivor.”