Chimpanzee killed after attacking woman

February 16, 2009 8:20:15 PM PST
Police shot and killed a chimpanzee that attacked a friend of its owner. According to police, the 200-pound chimp somehow found the keys to the house at 241 Rock Rimmon Road shortly after 3:30 p.m. and walked outside

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The owner, 70-year-old Sandy Herold, called a friend to help get the chimp named Travis back into the house. Travis apparently wanted to go for a ride, investigators said.

Witnesses told Eyewitness News that when that friend arrived, she got out of her car and Travis immediately attacked her.

Police said they had no idea why the 15-year-old chimpanzee, attacked the woman. Stamford police Lt. Richard Conklin said Herold wrestled with the animal, then ran inside to call 911.

"She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her longtime pet numerous times in an effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked," Conklin said.

Police arrived on the scene a short time later. Travis ran away and started roaming on Herold's property. Officers set up security so medics could reach the critically injured woman lying on the ground, Conklin said.

As the woman was treated, the chimpanzee went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars, Conklin said. Travis opened the door to one cruiser and started to get in, trapping an officer who then shot the chimpanzee several times, Conklin said.

The wounded chimpanzee fled. Conklin said police followed the trail of his blood down the driveway, into the open door of the home, through the house and to his living quarters, where he had retreated and died of his wounds.

The victim was identified as 55-year-old Charla Nash. She suffered life-threatening injuries with severe facial and extremity bites and lacerations, according to fire officials.

Herold was also taken to the hospital after she began having chest pains, officials said. Two police officers also suffered injuries.

Well-known around Stamford because he rode around in trucks belonging to his owners' towing company, Travis appeared on TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger, made an appearance on the "Maury Povich Show" and took part in a television pilot, according to a 2003 story in The Advocate newspaper of Stamford.

"He's been raised almost like a child by this family," Conklin said Monday. "He rides in a car every day, he opens doors, he's a very unique animal in that aspect. We have no indication of what provoked this behavior at all."

Conklin said the chimp has been ill from Lyme disease, "so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don't know."

Police have dealt with the animal in the past, including an incident in 2003 when he escaped from his owners' vehicle in downtown Stamford for two hours. Officers used cookies, macadamia treats and ice cream in an attempt to lure him, but subdued him only after he became too tired to resist.

At the time of the 2003 incident, police said the Herolds told them the chimpanzee was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He also brushed his teeth using a Water Pik, logged onto the computer to look at pictures, and watched television using the remote control, police said.