A drug bust in Coatesville took a surprising turn when police discovered a 3-foot-long alligator during the search of a home.

Authorities also found heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, more than $5,000 in cash, and drug packaging materials, a discovery that led to the arrests of three men.

Irvin “Gotti” Hawkins, 31, of Coatesville; Aki Gathright, 35, of Philadelphia; and Tyrone Jackson, 40, of Columbia, Pa. were sent to Chester County Prison, officials said Thursday. The gator was sent to the Brandywine Zoo.

Irvin "Gotti" Hawkins, 31, of Coatesville, was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.
Chester County District Attorney's Office
Irvin "Gotti" Hawkins, 31, of Coatesville, was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.

“Drug dealers will do just about anything to project an image of danger in order to protect their drugs and cash,” Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said in a statement. “Some drug dealers use pit bulls or snakes. These drug traffickers kept an alligator in the house.”

On Feb. 8, the three men were at the Gibbons Avenue home as authorities executed a search warrant. Each of them, police said, had drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Tyrone Jackson, 40, of Columbia, Pa., was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.
Chester County District Attorney's Office
Tyrone Jackson, 40, of Columbia, Pa., was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.

Authorities said the men told investigators the alligator in their kitchen was a caiman, a species of Central and South American reptile that is shorter in length than some others. Authorities later determined the creature to be an American alligator, which can grow to measure 8- to 10-feet long as an adult.

The gator was taken to the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, where it will spend the summer as an education animal, authorities said. After that, it will be moved to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida.

The American alligator found at a South Coatesville home when police executed a search warrant as part of a drug trafficking investigation
The American alligator found at a South Coatesville home when police executed a search warrant as part of a drug trafficking investigation

“We will provide care for the alligator and ensure it’s healthy during its stay with the zoo,” Brandywine Zoo xirector Brint Spencer said in a statement.

A judge set bail for Hawkins, who rented the home, at $250,000; for Jackson, $75,000; and for Gathright, $50,000. All three men await preliminary hearings on Feb. 20.

Aki Gathright, 35, of Philadelphia, was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.
Chester County District Attorney's Office
Aki Gathright, 35, of Philadelphia, was one of three men charged with drug trafficking.

No attorney for Hawkins was listed on court documents. Attorneys for Gathright and Jackson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The men all faces charges of drug trafficking and related offenses. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no criminal charge for possession of an alligator, authorities said.

“When we execute a drug search warrant, we never know what we will find," Hogan said. “Sometimes it is an armed drug dealer. Sometimes it is the drug dealer’s terrified family. On this day, it was an alligator.”