Thornwood, NY – An off-duty Irvington police saved a 5-year-old girl who was being attacked by a rabid coyote at a popular playground on Sunday afternoon.
Officer Arcangelo Liberatore was at the park with his wife and young children, and had just finished a run when he noticed the coyote climbing through the playground’s external fence at approximately 4:40 p.m., the New York Daily News reported.
As the coyote began to pick up speed, the officer and his wife instinctively grabbed their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, and began running towards their car.
But when Officer Liberatore looked over his shoulder, he realized he had to turn back.
“I saw a woman on the ground and a mass of fur and bodies,” he told the New York Daily News.
The animal had Natalia’s left arm locked firmly between its teeth.
"I took my foot and kicked him right in the face with all of my might, and he fell down to the ground," King-Petrallese recalled. “So he came over...grabbed her left arm, and dragged her down.”
Natalia’s mother grabbed the coyote’s snout, and tried to break the lock it had on her child’s arm, as Officer Liberatore ran up to them.
The officer then jumped on top of the 30-pound rabid animal, and attempted to strangle it, the New York Daily News reported.
"I slammed its head to the ground a couple of times,” Officer Liberatore told the New York Daily News. “I was trying to eliminate it.”
After the battered coyote released its grip on Natalia, Officer Liberatore, a six-year veteran of the force, proceeded to sit on the animal until Mount Pleasant Officer Jonathan Kramel arrived at the scene, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva said.
"Our officer told him to get off it and run toward him and he was going to shoot this thing," Chief Oliva said.
Officer Kramel fired his weapon, and shot the coyote in the head.
Natalia sustained a one to two inch cut on her arm, and received stitches at a nearby hospital, WPIX reported.
“That thing had sharp teeth,” the little girl told WPIX. “And it...bit very hard.”
"I wasn't screaming, I wasn't panicking, I wasn't scared," Natalia told WNBC. “ I was just asking for help, and that man saved my life."
On Tuesday, the Westchester County Health Department confirmed that the coyote had rabies, and were evaluating everyone who came into contact with the animal or its saliva.
Natalia received a preventative rabies shot immediately after the attack, and will continue to receive the injections on a weekly basis for approximately a month.
Officer Liberatore cut his hand during the battle, and received six rabies shots in his hand, two in each leg, and two in his arm, he told the New York Daily News.
Officer Liberatore, who practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu, said that his reaction during the attack came naturally to him.
“I also have a fairly big dog that I’m used to wrestling stuff out of his mouth,” he said. “I just held onto that thing for dear life. I didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
After the incident, Officer Liberatore and King-Petrallese learned that their children attended the same school, and that Officer Liberatore had worked with her husband as a paramedic in the past.
“He is a true hero, and I do feel that most people wouldn’t have come back to help someone,” the thankful mother told WPIX.
Officer Liberatore said he would probably return to the park with his family in the future, but that he would also bring his firearm.