Pet chimpanzee attacks woman in Connecticut
A 200-pound pet chimpanzee in Stamford, Connecticut, viciously mauled a woman he had known for years, leaving her critically injured with much of her face torn away, the authorities said.
The 90-kilogram animal was shot and killed on Monday by the police after he assaulted an officer in his car.
The woman, Charla Nash, 55, a friend of the chimpanzee's owner, was being treated at Stamford Hospital and might not survive, the authorities said.
The attack also brought a brutal end to the life of the chimpanzee, Travis, 14, a popular figure in town who had appeared in television commercials and often posed for photographs at the shop operated by his owners. He had escaped before, and in 2003 playfully held up traffic at a busy intersection for several hours, but he had no history of violence, the authorities said. Travis's social skills included drinking wine from a stemmed glass, dressing and bathing himself and using a computer.
Travis's owner, Sandra Herold, 70, had raised him almost as one of her own children but found herself lunging at him with a butcher knife on Monday to protect Nash, said Captain Richard Conklin of the Stamford police, who gave the following account.
Herold told detectives that Travis was in a rambunctious mood on Monday afternoon. He took her keys from the kitchen table, unlocked a door and let himself out into the yard.
"He's going to different cars and tapping on them, trying the doors, a clear indication he wanted to go for a ride," Conklin said.
Travis would not be lured back into the house, even after Herold gave him tea laced with Xanax, a drug used for treating anxiety in humans. Herold called Nash, who drove over, but when she stepped out of her car at around 3:40 p.m., Travis went at her full force. While it was not clear what prompted the assault, Nash had markedly changed her hairstyle since the last time Travis had seen her, possibly leading him to mistake her for an intruder.
Herold tried to pull Travis off her friend, but, Conklin noted, "Sandra is 70 years old, and a 200-pound chimpanzee is much, much stronger than a 200-pound human being."
Herold telephoned for help, grabbed a knife and stabbed Travis several times, to little effect. When emergency service vehicles pulled up, Travis fled, leaving Nash face down in the driveway.
One team of officers searched the woods for Travis, while another formed a protective cordon around the paramedics ministering to Nash.
After a while, Conklin said, Travis returned and "went after the officers." He knocked a mirror off the passenger's side of a police cruiser with one swing of his arm, then ran around to the driver's side, opened the door and attacked the officer in the driver's seat.
"He's trapped in his car," Conklin said of the officer. "He has nowhere to go. So he pulls his sidearm and shoots the chimp several times in close proximity."
Travis disappeared into the woods. Eventually officers picked up a blood trail, which they followed back to the house. There they found Travis in his living quarters. He was dead.