St. Lucie County, FL – A woman involved in a rollover crash plunged a knife into a St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputy’s neck after he stopped to help her on Wednesday night, according to police.
Despite the gushing wound to his carotid artery, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office (SLCSO) Deputy Cody Colangelo, 22, still chased after his attacker on foot, SLCSO Chief Deputy Brian Hester told reporters during a press conference on Thursday, according to WFLX.
The incident began at approximately 11 p.m. on March 23, when a suspect later identified as 21-year-old Leigha Michelle Day crashed into a tree and rolled her vehicle in the 12000-block of South Indian River Drive, according to the SLCSO.
Deputy Colangelo responded to the scene and found the vehicle unoccupied.
He quickly spotted Day nearby, walking along the shoreline below an embankment, WFLX reported.
The deputy approached Day, who was highly “emotional,” and spoke with her calmly before trying to get her to walk back up the embankment, Chief Deputy Hester said.
The interaction was captured on the deputy’s bodycam, which has not yet been released.
“He did such a phenomenal job. He was so nice and compassionate with her,” the chief deputy told reporters, according to WFLX. “’Hey, we’re gonna help you. Come on, let’s get you back up here. You don’t have to be afraid.’”
Day was climbing up a stairway headed back towards the road with Deputy Colangelo following behind her when she suddenly turned around and plunged a knife into his neck, Chief Deputy Hester said.
The chief deputy described the attack as “completely unprovoked.”
The suspect took off running as Deputy Colangelo drew his weapon and fired a single round, WFLX reported.
Day was not hit and continued running away.
The wounded deputy applied pressure to his neck and chased after Day until he lost sight of her, then radioed for backup, according to police.
Deputies searched the area and located Day hiding below the embankment, WFLX reported.
Chief Deputy Hester said she was booked into the St. Lucie County Jail on a first-degree attempted murder charge, but investigators still have no idea why she attacked Deputy Colangelo.
“She did appear to be under the influence of something,” he told reporters. “We’re awaiting results to figure that out.”
Investigators recovered the weapon at the scene, the Treasure Coast News reported.
They described it as a “butterfly knife.”
Deputy Colangelo was rushed to a local hospital, where he underwent emergency two-hour surgery, WFLX reported.
“His injuries were pretty gruesome,” Chief Deputy Hester said.
Surgeons removed the damaged portion of his carotid artery and replaced it using a section of artery taken from his leg, WFLX reported.
Deputy Colangelo was listed in stable condition on Thursday morning and is expected to make a full recovery.
“To watch one of our deputies who just sustained a life-threatening injury, calmed himself down enough, saved his own life. He saved his own life through his training,” Chief Deputy Hester said. “Stood guard for nearby residents and then directed other deputies where to go. All while calmly controlling his breathing.”
Deputy Colangelo, a two-year veteran of the department, comes from a line of law enforcement officers, WFLX reported.
His brother and father are both members of the SLCSO, Treasure Coast News reported.
The young deputy received a Life Saving Award in 2020 shortly after he joined the force.