Treasured gopher tortoise intentionally run over in Florida

U.S. & World

The video is hard to watch. As a gopher tortoise is crossing a driveway, a car stops, then continues, crushing and killing it.

Making matters worse, the animal was beloved by the students of San Jose Elementary in Dunedin.

This happened Saturday afternoon. The tortoise, named “Jose” after the school, died just feet from his burrow.

UPDATE: Deputies initially believed someone intentionally ran over the tortoise, but they have now ruled the death an accident and say no crime was committed.

Security video shows the driver of a newer, light blue or silver Acura TSX stop.

The tortoise moves, then the car continues, crushing the animal under its front tire.

“It’s kind of sad because he was like the school pet and everybody loved him” said fifth grader Clay Irby.

Students at San Jose Elementary are very familiar with Jose and his mate “Sandy.”

We watched Sandy taking a lunch break near the burrow.  

Jose will be missed.

“I’ve always been wondering why the hole is down there. And now I see him at lunch time or down in rec time,” said third grader, Luke Irby.

“Their home is not only home for themselves, it’s a home for many other species,” said Jason Cowen, with Friends of Boyd Hill.

Gopher tortoises grow very slowly and take decades to get to Jose’s size.

“They are state threatened. The only exceptions is if you’re trying to save them. Then you can move them across the road, but to get them out of traffic, not turn them over,” said Cowen.

Pinellas deputies think this incident may have been on purpose.

Jose is featured on the school’s Facebook page.

Now Sandy is left to live out her life and entertain the kids.

“If he was out and someone saw him, everybody would run over to the door and look out the window to see him just walk around and eat blades of grass,” said Irby.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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