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A janitor who was bitten by an endangered tiger at a Florida zoo after sticking his arm into the enclosure could be criminally charged, police said.
Eko, an eight-year-old Malay boy, was shot and killed by responding officers at the Naples Zoo when he did not want to loosen the man’s arm from his jaws.
Horrible body camera footage shows 26-year-old contract cleaner River Rosenquist, bloodied and on the ground next to the compound as he yells, ‘Please help me! Please help! Oh my God! Shoot him! I’m going to die!’
After being shot, the tiger released Rosenquist and retreated to his compound where he was later pronounced dead. The cleaner was taken to the hospital on trauma alert.
In a statement released Thursday, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said it would determine whether charges would be filed against the injured worker, but did not say what the charges could be.
“Preliminary information indicates that the man was stroking or feeding the animal, which are unauthorized and dangerous activities,” he said.
“An investigation will determine whether criminal charges will be brought against Rosenquist.”
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk was forced to defend his deputy’s
Officials added that the cleaning company Rosenquist works for is “responsible for cleaning the restrooms and the gift shop, not the animal enclosures.”
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk was forced to defend his deputy’s decision to fatally shoot the tiger Eko, saying it was the “only possible decision” as the animal would not let go of Rosenquist’s arm.
Body camera video released Thursday shows an officer asking if a tranquilizer is available and being told no, and unsuccessful efforts to distract the animal before the officer shoots.
“Our assistant did everything he could in that situation and ultimately made the only possible decision that he could to save this man’s life,” Rambosk said in a statement.
Naples Zoo Marketing Director Courtney Jolly said that when the zoo is open there is a team present that includes a shooter and lead dart, but that the zoo was not open when the attack occurred.
The footage shows Collier County Sheriff’s deputies trying to kick down the compound where Eko was housed in an attempt to get the animal to free the worker.
Eko could be grunting by the time he fired the fatal shot
After a failed attempt, the officer, believing he had no other options, fired a single shot at the tiger in an attempt to save Rosenquist’s life.
Eko could be grunting by the time he fired the fatal shot, then retreated to the rear of the compound where he died.
Agents were called to the zoo around 6.26 p.m. Wednesday after Rosenquist violated park rules by entering the tiger enclosure.
The preliminary investigation revealed that he was supposed to be cleaning the restrooms and the gift shop when he decided to enter an unauthorized area of the tiger enclosure and reached inside.
He appeared to be stroking or feeding the tiger, which police say are “unauthorized and dangerous activities.”
Eko then grabbed his arm and tried to lead him inside the compound, prompting authorities to intervene.
“Our deputy did everything he could in that situation and ultimately made the only possible decision he could to save this man’s life,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in a news release.
‘This was a tragic encounter in our world-class zoo facilities. We value our community partnership with the Naples Zoo and its focus on conservation and education. ‘
Rosenquist was seriously injured during the incident and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The current status of him is unknown.
After the shooting, officers flew a drone over the compound, trying to determine Eko’s injuries, and found him unconscious.
A zoo veterinarian calmed the tiger and entered the enclosure to assess his injuries.
The animal medicine expert determined that Eko had died from his injuries.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is working with state and federal prosecutors to investigate the incident and determine whether criminal charges will be brought against Rosenquist.
Officials also note that the cleaner is employed by a third-party cleaning service and not a member of the zoo staff.
It is unclear which company he works for or if the organization will take disciplinary action.
River Rosenquist Quick and Facts
- Eko, an eight-year-old Malayan tiger at Naples Zoo, was fatally shot Wednesday night after seizing cleaner River Rosenquist’s arm
- Police claim 26-year-old man entered an ‘unauthorized part’ of the tiger enclosure and stuck his arm through the fencing in an attempt to feed or pet Eko
- The tiger clamped down on his arm, leaving the worker screaming out in pain: ‘Please help me! Please help me!’
- Sheriff’s deputies said they tried kicking enclosure to free the worker but were unsuccessful, prompting the gunfire
- Collier County officers defended shooting the tiger as ‘only possible decision’
- Rosenquist, who is employed by a third-party cleaning service, could face criminal charges over the incident, police say