Pictured: ‘Troubled’ Florida zoo cleaner getting mauled, causing tiger to be shot and killed

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(Video Credit: CBS Evening News)

A reportedly “troubled” Florida zoo cleaner who stuck his arm into a Malayan tiger’s cage Wednesday, getting mauled in the process and resulting in the endangered cat being shot and killed, has an arrest record and is evidently not quite all there, according to his neighbors.

The tragic incident took place at the Naples Zoo after hours. River Rosenquist, 26, was not authorized to be anywhere near the big cat but somehow thought it would be cool to stick his arm into the enclosure to pet or feed the tiger named Eko. The tiger did what predators do and grabbed the man’s arm thinking it was dinner time.

A Collier County Sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene was sadly forced to shoot Eko in the neck to force the tiger to release Rosenquist’s mangled arm. Graphic body camera footage shows the brutal scene. It was released by the law enforcement agency on Thursday.

As the deputy approached the enclosure wondering if this was even real, you can hear the screams for help from Rosenquist. He screamed in terror and pain as deputies arrived on the scene and were forced to put the tiger down. He was rushed to a hospital with severe injuries to his arm.

Deputies initially kicked at the fencing to try and get the tiger to release the man but were forced to shoot the animal when it didn’t let go.


(Video Credit: The Daily Mail)

Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena remarked during a press conference held Friday morning that they believe the 8-year-old tiger died of internal bleeding, but a necropsy will be performed on Eko Monday to determine the exact cause of death, though it seems likely it was the deputy’s shot.

“Our thoughts and well wishes are with River Rosenquist,” Mulvena stated. “It was a bad mistake, bad decision, but we only wish him well in his recovery.”

Rosenquist works for HMI Commercial Cleaning and according to county records, he was arrested in 2015 for driving with a suspended license. Prosecutors would later dismiss the charge against him after he completed a deferred-prosecution program. He was 19 at the time.

Neighbors told WINK News that he was a “troubled” young man.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has yet to determine whether they will charge the man with anything, according to a statement. They did not comment on exactly what potential charges might be.

Mulvena declared that he has not considered pressing charges.

“Our focus right now is with our staff,” he commented fighting back tears. “They’re still grieving. We’ve lost a member of our family with Eko.”

“I think the lesson learned is you can’t 100 percent prevent people from making a really horrible decision,” he remarked. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, things happen that… are beyond our control.”

According to the sheriff’s office, Rosenquist was supposed to be cleaning the zoo’s gift shop and bathroom. Instead, he took a field trip to the Malayan tiger’s exhibit. He reportedly got past a barrier and then put his arm through the fence.

“We don’t know what happened and why he did that,” Mulvena informed reporters on Friday. “We suspect to pet or to feed [the tiger], but only River knows that.”

The zoo president defended the deputy who was forced to shoot and kill Eko, asserting that members of Naples Zoo’s weapons team agreed that it was the right decision and they would have done the same under the circumstances.

Mulvena has suspended the cleaners’ contract with the zoo pending an internal investigation.

Now, the Independent is reporting that the zoo is facing a boycott and backlash on social media over the tiger’s death.


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