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from The Denver Post


Aurora man strangled by pet python

By Jim Kirksey
Denver Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 11, 2002

AURORA CO - A large pet python overpowered its owner and squeezed him to death in the basement of an Aurora home Sunday afternoon.

Authorities were called to 1357 S. Biscay St. at 2:27 p.m. on a report of a snake choking a man, authorities at the scene said.

Sgt. Jack Daluz, one of the first officers on the scene, along with officer Doug Stark, said they found the man, whose name wasn't immediately released by authorities, on the floor of the basement "with a Burmese python around his neck."

He said the victim wasn't struggling at that point.

"The part of the snake that wasn't wrapped around him was coiled and it was looking at us," he said. "It wasn't pretty."

Daluz and Stark used their police batons for leverage to pull the reptile away from the man's neck, but it took reinforcements from the Aurora Fire Department to peel the pet off the man. The snake was about 8 inches in diameter, Daluz said.

Fire Lt. Dave Varnum said it took seven men to unwrap the 8-to-10-foot-long, 60- to 80-pound python from around its owner, and firefighter Sigfried Kline wrestled it back into its cage.

Varnum said it isn't clear why the reptile attacked its owner, who had raised it from a small snake to its present size. It didn't appear to be hungry and it wasn't shedding its skin - two times when snakes tend to be more aggressive, Varnum said.

Two women who also live in the house found the man with the snake around his neck but they were unable to unravel it, so they called 911, Varnum said.

Jay Larson, who lives across the street, identified the victim as Rick Barber and said he has known him for about a dozen years. Larson said an ambulance technician on the scene told him the victim had no pulse when they arrived, but they had managed to restore it before taking him to the Medical Center of Aurora.

He was pronounced dead of asphyxiation in the hospital's emergency room, hospital spokeswoman Bev Petry said.

"He probably was the nicest man in the neighborhood," Larson said. "He would do anything for you. Nobody would talk bad about him around here."

Larson said he has petted the python many times in the past, and he described it as docile.

Aurora Animal Control took custody of the large python.

Varnum said it is illegal to have a snake over 10 feet long in Colorado, and in Aurora it is illegal to have one over 6 feet long.

Copyright 2002 The Denver Post

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