Knife-Wielding Florida Man Arrested in Homemade Hamster Wheel

A repeat offender in a hamster wheel — is that too perfect, or is it just me?

Fifty-one-year-old Reza Baluchi, of Florida, was apprehended by authorities while paddling a makeshift hamster wheel in the Atlantic Ocean. Arrested off the coast of South Carolina after threatening responding officers that he was prepared to take his own life with a 30-centimeter knife, he was in the midst of what the U.S. Coast Guard called “a manifestly unsafe voyage.”

According to The Daily Mail, Baluchi drew charges of criminal conduct on the high seas when he engaged in a standoff with the officers, warning them that he had a makeshift bomb on board.

No one was hurt in the incident and it eventually became clear Baluchi was not harboring a bomb.

The altercation occurred on Aug. 26, about 110 km away from a tiny peninsula town at the northeastern tip of Georgia. The Daily Mail reported he told officers he was headed for London, but he ended up facing charges in Miami, Fla.

The Coast Guard seeks to federally prosecute Baluchi through the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, according to a statement. Penalties will depend on jurisdictional authority — the “high seas” represent a relative gray area in the United States criminal justice system.

For Baluchi, it’s a familiar runaround. The arrest marks the fourth time authorities have intervened on one of his trans-Atlantic homemade hamster wheel journeys. (Prior encounters have been peaceful.)

Baluchi previously embarked in 2014, 2016, and 2021. All three attempts fizzled near the U.S. coast in similar craft, according to the Daily Mail, and the Coast Guard added that he’d failed to properly register his homemade vessel on this outing.

It’s a sorry story for a proud athlete. Originally from Iran, Baluchi’s website paints a picture of an inspired individual who “has traveled our world and shared in the lives of people from every nation. He understands we are all the same and strives for peace in life and hopes to inspire unity.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.