Sheriff’s office releases bodycam video of tiger shooting at Naples Zoo

A rare male tiger was shot and killed after a cleaning crew worker put his arm in the animal's cage.

NAPLES, Fla. – More information is being released by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office after one of its deputies shot a Malayan tiger at the Naples Zoo.

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said his office is working with state and federal prosecutors to investigate the encounter that happened Wednesday at the zoo.

(Warning: The video below contains graphic content.)

A 26-year-old man identified as River Rosenquist of Naples was working with a cleaning crew after the zoo closed. Deputies said he had entered an animal enclosures area and put his arm through a fence. It was then that the tiger named “Eko” grabbed his arm. Rosenquist called 911 himself to say he was being attacked by the animal.

The male tiger was mauling his arm when a deputy decided to shoot. The wounded tiger retreated to the back of the enclosure, according to deputies.

The man did not have permission to get close to the animal enclosures, according to Rambosk. Fire Rescue personnel took the man, who suffered serious injuries, to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.

“Our deputy did everything he could do in that situation and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could in order to save this man’s life,” said Rambosk. “This was a tragic encounter at our world-class zoo facility.”

Rambosk said that Rosenquist was in an unauthorized area of the zoo at the tiger enclosure after the facility closed Wednesday and that the man had already breached an initial barrier.

The CCSO deputy initially tried to get the tiger to release the man’s arm.

According to the sheriff, Eko retreated to the rear of the enclosure after being struck by the single shot fired by the deputy. A CCSO drone was flown into the enclosure to determine the tiger’s injuries but video from the drone showed that the tiger was unresponsive. A zoo veterinarian tranquilized the tiger and entered the enclosure to assess the animal when it was safe to do so. The veterinarian determined that the tiger died from its injury.

Courtney Jolly of the Naples Zoo said that there were no previous incidents involving Eko.

“We’ve never had an incident with this particular tiger. We’ve never had anything like this happen at the zoo before. We’ve never had anyone breach a barrier fence and put themselves in this situation,” Jolly said.

The cleaning service that Rosenquist worked for was reportedly responsible for cleaning restrooms and the gift shop, not the animal enclosures. It is believed that the employee traversed an initial fence barrier before sticking his arm through the fencing of the tiger enclosure.

Rambosk said that an investigation will determine whether Rosenquist will face criminal charges.

“We fully support CCSO and what they had to do,” Jolly said. “At the end of the day, if a person is in imminent danger, they have to take that action and . . . the officer unfortunately had to do his job.”

The Naples Zoo will be closed on Thursday and is expected to reopen on Friday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Malayan tiger as critically endangered.

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About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local She has a bachelor's degree from Emerson College, Boston, and a master's degree from SUNY-Empire State.