Zoo cleaner River Rosenquist, 26, is pictured as a 19-year-old in a mugshot from 2015, when he was arrested for driving with a suspended license
New details are emerging about the Florida zoo cleaner who was mauled on Wednesday by a Malayan tiger at Naples Zoo, which was then shot and killed, including that he has a arrest record and was described as ‘troubled’ by his neighbors.
River Rosenquist, 26, was rushed to a hospital with serious injuries to his arm after authorities and zoo staff said he entered an unauthorized area near the tiger’s enclosure at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens after hours Wednesday, allegedly to pet of feed the eight-year-old big cat named Eko.
The tiger grabbed Rosenquist’s arm, prompting the cleaner to call 911 for help.
A Collier County Sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene shot Eko in the neck to get it to release Rosenquist’s mangled arm, as seen in graphic body camera video that was released by the law enforcement agency on Thursday.
Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena said during a press conference early Friday morning that it is believed the highly endangered tiger died of internal bleeding, but a necropsy will be performed on the animal on Monday to determine its exact cause of death.
Police body camera video shows the horrific moment a Florida cop shot and killed a tiger after it seized Rosenquist’s arm after the cleaner tried to pet or feed it
Eko (pictured), an eight-year-old Malayan tiger, was killed Wednesday night after a deputy struck him with a single shot
‘Our thoughts and well wishes are with River Rosenquist,’ Mulvena said. ‘It was a bad mistake, bad decision, but we only wish him well in the recovery.’
Meanwhile, county records indicate that Rosenquist, who worked for a third-party cleaning service, HMI Commercial Cleaning, was arrested in 2015 on a charge of driving with a suspended license.
Rosenquist, who was 19 years old at the time of the arrest, entered a deferred-prosecution program, and in September 2015 prosecutors dismissed the charge against him.
According to an online obituary, Rosenquist lost his mother in 2012. He has a brother and has been living with his father on Rosea Court in Naples.
The family’s neighbors told a WINK News reporter that Rosenquist was a ‘troubled’ youth.
Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena said during a press conference on Friday that he supports the deputy’s decision to shoot the tiger to save a person’s life
In a statement issued Thursday, Collier County Sheriff’s Office said they would determine whether charges would be filed against Rosenquist, but it did not say what the charges could be.
Mulvena, the president of Naples Zoo, said that he has not considered pressing charges.
‘Our focus right now is with our staff,’ he said. ‘They’re still grieving. We’ve lost a member of our family with Eko.’
Mulvena added that he does not believe the zoo’s policies or protocols were responsible for what happened.
‘I think the lesson learned is you can’t 100 per cent prevent people from making really horrible decision,’ he said. ‘Ultimately, at the end of the day, things happen that… are beyond our control.’
The zoo was closed on Thursday but reopened to the public on Friday. Mulvena said, choking back tears, that zookeepers will not be giving talks today.
According to the sheriff’s office, Rosenquist was supposed to be cleaning the zoo’s bathrooms and gift shop, but instead he made his way to the Malayan tiger exhibit, where he was not authorized to be, breached a barrier fence and put his arm through the fence surrounding the enclosure.
‘We don’t know what happened and why he did that,’ Mulvena told reporters on Friday. ‘We suspect to pet or to feed [the tiger], but only River knows that.’
The tiger locked its powerful jaws around Rosenquist’s arm and would not let go.
Video shows Rosenquist, of Naples, bloodied and on the ground at the Naples Zoo tiger enclosure as he screams out in pain: ‘Please help me! Please help me!’
Rosenquist appeared to be either petting or feeding the tiger, both of which police say are ‘unauthorized and dangerous activities’
Preliminary investigation revealed Rosenquist was supposed to be cleaning the restrooms and gift shop when he decided to enter an unauthorized area of the tiger enclosure and stuck his hand through
A security guard was alerted to the incident and called 911 for help. Mulvena said the guard’s role after hours is to monitor the grounds, but he does not carry a tranquillizer gun.
The zoo has a weapons and tranquilizer team on staff, but they only work during business hours.
A Collier County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at the zoo at around 6.30pm and came upon Eko the tiger mauling Rosenquist’s arm.
Body camera video released Thursday shows the deputy asking if a tranquilizer is available and being told no, and unsuccessful efforts to distract the animal by kicking the enclosure.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is working with state and federal prosecutors to investigate the incident and determine whether criminal charges will be filed against Rosenquist. Officials also note he is employed by a third-party cleaning service and not a member of zoo staff
Having failed to get Eko to release the cleaner’s arm, the deputy, believing he had no other options, fired a single shot.
Eko could be heard grunting around the time the fatal shot was fired, then retreated to the rear of the enclosure where he died.
Mulvena said that no blood was found on Eko, suggesting that it died from internal bleeding.
The zoo president defended the deputy who shot and killed Eko, saying that members of Naples Zoo’s weapons team agreed that it was the right decision and they would have done the same under these circumstances.
Mulvena said he has suspended HMI cleaners’ contract with the zoo pending an internal investigation, although he said the company has been doing a ‘great job’ and there have been no prior incidents.
Calls and emails to HMI Commercial Cleaners seeking comment have gone unanswered Friday.