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Travis the chimp killed by police after attacking woman

February 17, 2009 |  2:33 pm

Stamford Police Officer Paul Pavia inspects the scene after Travis, a domesticated chimpanzee, was shot and killed by a Stamford Police officer

Travis, a 200-pound chimpanzee who once starred in commercials for Coca-Cola and Old Navy, was fatally shot by Stamford, Conn., police after he savagely attacked a female friend of his owner, Sandra Herold, 70. 

Charla Nash, 55, the victim of Travis' attack, went to Herold's home Monday to help her coax the chimp back into the home after it escaped. Travis lunged at Nash when she got out of her car; Herold went into the home to dial 911. 

While inside, 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," Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said. Herold also struck Travis with a shovel when, she told police, she found that the knife had no effect.  The Associated Press reports:

Nash was in critical condition today after suffering what Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy called "life-changing, if not life-threatening," injuries to her face and hands.

Her sister-in-law, Kate Nash, said this morning that Nash underwent surgery Monday night and came out of it "OK."

Herold and two officers also received minor injuries, police said. Conklin said police don't know what triggered the attack.

After the attack on Nash, Travis began roaming Herold's property until, when police arrived, he attempted to attack officers as well. The officers retreated to their squad cars, but one shot the chimp fatally when it opened a squad car door and began to get in. "He had no other recourse," Conklin said, because the animal had cornered him.

Travis the chimpanzee sits in the corner of his playroom in 2003 The New York Times reports that Travis may have been suffering from an illness:

In an interview, [Capt. Conklin] said that Travis, 14, was believed to have Lyme disease, a tick-borne bacterial infection that in rare cases has been linked to psychosis, severe anxiety and delusional behavior. Travis had been in an agitated state most of the day Monday, and at one point his owner took the unusual step of giving him tea laced with Xanax in an attempt to calm him down, Capt. Conklin said.

"We're trying to see if that factored into this," he said of the Lyme disease.

Other than medication he might have been taking for the disease, Travis was not on any drugs and was not usually given Xanax, he added.

From the Associated Press:

Police have dealt with him 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.

Herold and her late husband, Jerome, adopted Travis as an infant, Stamford mayor Malloy said in a news conference, adding "This animal was raised as a family member."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Stamford Police Officer Paul Pavia inspects the scene outside Sandy Herold's Stamford home.  Credit: Chris Preovolos/Associated Press

Bottom photo: Travis in 2003. Credit: Kathleen O'Rourke/Associated Press

Video: Associated Press

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