Squeeze Play: Cops Save Shop Owner Attacked by 20-Foot Python

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By Jon Schuppe

A 20-foot python turned on a north Kentucky pet store owner "like lightning" on Monday, biting him in the arm and wrapping itself around his body while a customer screamed in terror.

Then the 125-pound snake began to squeeze.

"A horror movie in real life is what that was," the customer, Melissa McElfresh, later told local NBC affiliate WLWT. "Probably the most scariest thing I've ever seen in my life. And I'm still in shock over it."

“A horror movie in real life,” says the woman who witnessed a python attack and called 911.
“A horror movie in real life,” says the woman who witnessed a python attack and called 911.NBC News

Pythons kill their prey by coiling themselves around their target's bodies and slowly tightening. So when Terry Wilkins, owner of Captive Born Reptiles, had to clean out the snake's cage, he had McElfresh tap on its glass to distract it.

But McElfresh saw the snake's head turn toward Wilkins.

"Terry, be careful. He's looking at you," McElfresh recalled telling him. "And he said, 'It's alright.' And no sooner he said that, just as quick as lightning" the snake was on Wilkins.

By the time Newport police officers arrived, the snake was wrapped around Wilkin's torso, head and neck. Blood was all over the place, and he wasn't moving.

"I saw him lying on the ground," Sgt. Daron Arnberg recalled. "I see a puddle of blood. He looks lifeless. So naturally we have to try to save him."

His partner, Lt. Gregory Ripberger, grabbed the snake's head while Arnberg uncoiled it from Wilkins' neck. Other officers pulled him away, and paramedics began to work on him.

By then, the snake had begun to wrap itself around Ripberger's arm. But they got it into its cage, where it remained Tuesday while police and animal control officers tried to decide whether to have it removed, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Wilkins was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center and was expected to fully recover.

Police told WLWT that he was in compliance with the city ordinances. The python, they said, was a breeding snake that was not accustomed to be handled by people.