An off-duty police officer came to the rescue of a little girl who was attacked by a coyote that suddenly emerged on a New York playground Sunday afternoon.
Five-year-old Natalia Petrellese’s mother, Kasey King-Petrellese, says she took her daughter and son to James M. Carroll Park in Westchester around 4 p.m. It wasn’t much later that a coyote, out of nowhere, charged at little Natalia full speed.
"My daughter's hair got caught on my button and she said, 'Oh, Mommy' and stopped -- and that's when the coyote came at us an angle and lunged up," said King-Petrellese.
“I’m telling you it was like a cheetah,” shee said. “I took my foot and I kicked him as hard as I could in his face, which knocked him to the ground and he stumbled a little. When he got up he swung over to my daughter’s side and bit her arm.”
Little Natalia recalled: "It was running, and my mom kicked it, and it fell to the ground and it got my arm."
For the next several agonizing seconds, she began to fight back at the aggressive animal as it continued to pounce at her daughter. Then suddenly the officer came to the rescue, pulling the coyote off the family.
"I though it had her by the back of her neck," King-Petrellese said. "At this point I just took it as an out, I pressed it into the grass and just repeatedly punched it in the face. And that's when the gentleman hopped onto the coyote, pinned him down and said, 'Get out of here, get out of here.'"
Irvington police officer Arcangelo Liberatore said he mounted the coyote and had his hands around its neck.
"I just sat and tried to squeeze the life out of it, but it was pretty resilient," he said.
Liberatore sat on the out-of-control creature until Mount Pleasant police arrived and shot it.
Natalia said, "I wasn't screaming, I wasn't panicking, I wasn't scared. I was just asking for help, and that man save my life."
Natalia’s 3-year-old brother was not hurt, but the siblings and mother went to the hospital to be looked at. Natalia needed rabies shots and also needed stitches and antibiotics.
Police sent the animal to Westchester County Department of Health for rabies testing. They say they have had several coyote sightings in the area, but never have they attacked a person before.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner says residents who encounter a coyote should yell, scream and throw things at it.
"You're never gonna get rid of all the coyotes, so the best approach is to learn how to live with coyotes," he said.
The county health department says coyote sightings may be common, but unless they have rabies, it's very unlikely for them to interact with humans.