Surprise! Mystery box in Merced holds toy guns, rattlesnake

MERCED — A sheriff’s deputy on Friday morning found something unexpected in a box left in front of the Merced County Courthouse: two toy guns and a live rattlesnake.

No injuries were reported, and the snake was taken by Merced Animal Control, said deputy Tom MacKenzieCQ, a sheriff’s spokesman.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., Deputy Rick JarrattCQ was told there was a suspicious package next to the fire hydrant near a sidewalk about 20 yards in front of the courthouse.

MacKenzie said Jarratt, who works as a court bailiff, went to examine the package and found an open box with a gray garbage bag inside.

The bag was tied in a knot. Jarratt picked up the bag and saw the toy handguns underneath, inside the box. MacKenzie said one gun was a replica of a .45-caliber handgun and the other was an old “pirate” style flint-action pistol.

He said Jarratt untied the garbage bag and discovered an adult rattlesnake between three and four feet long.

Sheriff’s officials later watched surveillance footage and determined the package was left behind by a man believed to be a transient. Sheriff’s officials don’t know why he left the package.

MacKenzie said they have an idea who the man is but do not plan on looking for him because he did not commit a crime.