A 16-year-old boy was walking around Novato's Old Town area Wednesday with a lethal weapon and, according to several witnesses, didn't really have a clue about the danger.
The weapon was a rattlesnake — mature, 4 1/2-foot-long, 2-inch diameter rattlesnake. Yeah, that would be the venomous kind of snake.
An alarmed man saw the boy walk into restaurant on Grant Avenue at about 3:45 p.m. with the snake draped around his neck.
"At that point," said the man, who didn't want to be identified, "that made me real nervous."
"We were freaking out," said a Mi Pueblo employee. "We're thinking, how can somebody be carrying a snake into a restaurant? I actually had a nightmare about it last night."
The man, who said he had a lot of experience dealing with snakes, had been driving by when he spotted the boy walking down Grant Avenue near the restaurant and pulled over to inquire about it.
"When I saw the size of the snake, my jaw dropped," the man said. "I was sort of dumbstruck that this boy was walking around with a venomous snake. I actually asked him, 'Are you crazy?'"
The boy, filled with bravado and sporting a smile, looked to be gaining attention from his dangerous stunt, the man said. The boy was wearing motorcycling gloves and holding the head of the snake right behind the jaw with one hand and the snake's tail with the other hand as the snake's body wrapped around the boy's neck.
"He was holding it the right way, but those gloves provided no protection at all," the man said. "And he was putting his finger in front of the snake's mouth, making its tongue come out."
The boy said he had found the snake on a trail and that his father knew about his new pet. "He said his mom didn't know about it," the man said. "When I told him it's illegal to be in possession of a venomous snake in California, he said he had no idea."
When the conversation ended, the man watched the boy walk into Mi Pueblo. The man then looked up Machin Avenue and saw a officer who had just walked outside the station and was getting into his cruiser just steps away from the restaurant. The man asked the officer to roll down his window and he told the officer what he'd seen.
"He was disbelieving, but he went down there and saw it for himself," the man said.
The snake was placed in a bag, and the officer called the , said Lt. Keith Heiden. Humane society publicist Carrie Harrington said the snake was relocated.