Ellenville, NY – An Ellenville police officer was shot in the chest while trying to escape from a suspected rabid fox in a residential neighborhood on Tuesday morning.
The incident occurred in the area of Mill Street and Center Street at approximately 10:15 a.m., after the agency received a report about the potentially rabid animal, Ellenville Police Chief Philip Mattracion told the Times Herald-Record.
When Ellenville Police Officer Harold Nunuvero and Sergeant Robert Morse arrived in the residential neighborhood, they spotted the aggressive animal and began formulating a plan to put it down safely, Chief Mattracion explained.
Suddenly, the unprovoked fox honed in on Officer Nunuvero, and charged towards him.
The startled officer drew his duty weapon, but opted not to fire at the fox out of fear of striking a resident and Sgt. Morse, who were in his line of fire.
“In reviewing the video footage that I have and also the officer’s bodycam footage, without a doubt, the officer made the appropriate decision and correct decision not to discharge his weapon at that time,” Chief Mattracion said.
In his attempt to evade the pursuing fox, Officer Nunuvero scaled a nearby fence, his duty weapon still in-hand.
But during the climb, his foot got caught up in the fence, causing him to flip over onto the ground.
He discharged his weapon as he fell, sending a bullet into his chest.
The round ricocheted off of his ballistic vest, Chief Mattracion explained.
“That bulletproof vest – without a doubt, without question – saved his life today,” the chief told the Times Herald-Record.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Monroe managed to fatally shoot the advancing fox in order to defend his partner.
“In real-time, you never know what you’ll get at a scene,” Sgt. Monroe told Westchester News 12. “It happened so fast, and Officer Nunuvero showed good judgement in not discharging his firearm.
“He had the opportunity. He was being chased down – it was on his tail,” the sergeant added. “I commend him for [his restraint].”
When Officer Nunuvero stood up, he realized he had shot himself, and was taken to a local hospital, the Times Herald-Record reported.
The 24-year-old officer, who has four years on the force, was treated for his injuries and has since been released. He is expected to return to work on Friday.
“He has an excellent work record and he’s been an excellent officer to have,” Chief Mattracion said.