Raccoon that attacked 6-year-old in New Jersey tests positive for rabies

Friday, January 29, 2016
Raccoon that attacked 6-year-old in NJ tests positive for rabies
Witnesses say the raccoon ran up from behind, jumped on the boy, latched onto his face and began biting and scratching him.

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- The raccoon that attacked a 6-year-old boy walking to school in New Jersey earlier this week has tested positive for rabies, causing police to issue a public safety alert.

The family of the boy, Aryan Gavali, released the test results to Eyewitness News Friday morning.

Aryan was attacked Wednesday morning while walking with his mother on 16th Avenue in Elmwood Park, N.J. Witnesses said the raccoon ran up from behind, jumped on him, latched onto his face and began biting and scratching him.

A Good Samaritan who was driving by, jumped in and helped, beating the raccoon with a pole until the animal released its grip on Aryan. He continued hitting the raccoon until it died.

Aryan was taken to Hackensack Medical Center with deep facial lacerations, including one by his right eye.

Elmwood Park police have issued an alert to the public, letting them know about the rabid raccoon.

"Be wary of wild animals. Do not feed, handle or approach them. Children should be told to stay away from unknown or wild animals, including cats and kittens," said the police department.

Police said all animal bites and scratches should be reported to the Elmwood Park Health Department at 201-796-1459 ext. 200.

Aryan was released from Hackensack University Medical Center on Thursday after receiving antibiotics.

Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno said the police received a call at 8:41 a.m. regarding a woman screaming. When officers arrived on 16th Avenue near the Boulevard intersection, they found the young child who had been attacked.

Shannon Lampert made that 911 call after seeing the disturbing attack.

"The boy was bleeding," she said. "It looked like it bit under his eye and bit the side of his face. I just called police."

"I'm coming around the corner from the gas station, I see this lady acting really hysterical," he said. "She's jumping around, she's like 'somebody help me, somebody help me.' I thought she was crazy because I didn't see anything, snow was piled all the way up. When I kinda drove up, maybe about five or six feet away from her, I seen this huge raccoon on top of the kid, and I could see his red jacket."

Walls exited the car with a fiberglass painter's pole and began to strike the raccoon until it released its grip on the child.

"I kinda shoved the raccoon," he said. "Once I shoved him, I seen there was a little space between him and the kid, but I could see that the raccoon was still clawed on the kid's face and he's biting the kid's face. So I had imagined that that was my son, you know, instinctively, it took over. And I just knew that I had to kill the raccoon."

"I grabbed my gloves, jumped out the truck, and ran over there to help, and he started hitting the raccoon," said Stephen Smith, a witness. "I think more people should've stopped, lucky that guy was in the area."

"I don't know if he has rabies, I don't know what's going on," Walls said. "I wanted to protect the mother and the son."

His wife happened to notice a commotion outside and thought a man was attacking a woman. When she came outside, she realized it was her husband swatting at the raccoon.

"He said that after it got off of him, he just kept hitting it because he didn't want to attack someone else," Diana Walls said.

"He was traumatized, he had cuts and bruises all over his face on both sides," Walls said. "You can clearly see that he was attacked by an animal."

Bergen County Animal Control removed the raccoon to conduct rabies testing. Those test results are expected by later this week.