A Florida man was hospitalized after an alligator chomped off his hand and forearm as he sought to elude authorities by running into a lake, police said on Thursday.

Jessie Kingsinger, 21, was missing three-quarters of his left arm when he crawled out of the lake in a wooded area behind an apartment complex, said Sergeant Gary Gross, a spokesman for the Lakeland Police Department.

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He apparently had run into the water as authorities searched for him on Wednesday evening, after his mother asked for help getting him to a medical facility for psychiatric evaluation.

"We expect it had just happened, seconds before he crawled out, otherwise he would have bled out immediately," Gross said in a telephone interview.

Kingsinger was hospitalized for treatment of his injuries, along with an unspecified psychiatric issue, he said. Florida wildlife officers were searching for the alligator on Thursday.

A contact for Kingsinger could not immediately be reached for comment.