FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A courageous St. Lucie County deputy was stabbed in the neck during a "completely unprovoked attack" late Wednesday night, yet still managed to chase after the suspect, authorities said.
According to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, deputies responded to a rollover crash in the 12500 block of South Indian River Drive around 11 p.m. and found a vehicle unoccupied.
Deputy Cody Colangelo, 22, eventually located the driver of the car, identified as Leigha Michelle Day, 21, walking along the shoreline down an embankment near the crash scene.
Colangelo made contact with Day, who authorities said was "emotional." They spoke for about one minute, and Colangelo told Day to walk back up the embankment.
"He did such a phenomenal job. He was so nice and compassionate with her," Chief Deputy Brian Hester said at a news conference Thursday. "'Hey, we're gonna help you. Come on, let's get you back up here. You don't have to be afraid.'"
Suddenly, without warning, Day turned and stabbed Colangelo in the neck with a knife, nicking his carotid artery.
"After climbing approximately two to three stairs going back up towards the road, she suddenly turned around and stabbed him," Hester said. "She stabbed Deputy Colangelo in the neck."
Day ran off and Colangelo fired one shot at her, but missed.
Despite being stabbed and suffering a severe injury, Colangelo chased after Day while applying pressure to his wound, authorities said.
"His injuries were pretty gruesome," Hester said.
At that point, Colangelo lost sight of Day and began radioing other deputies for help. Authorities eventually found Day hiding down an embankment and took her into custody.
Hester said Colangelo's department-issued body camera captured the entire terrifying incident.
"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," Hester said. "Stood guard for nearby residents and then directed other deputies where to go. All the while calmly controlling his breathing."
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Colangelo underwent a two-hour surgery during which doctors replaced part of the artery in his neck with one from his leg. The deputy is now in stable condition in the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
"By the grace of God and through this deputy's training, he is alive," St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said Thursday.
Prior to the violent encounter with Colangelo, Day was speeding on South Indian River Drive, lost control of her car and slammed into a tree, Hester said.
Day was booked into the St. Lucie County Jail just before 9 a.m. Thursday on a charge of premeditated first-degree attempted murder. Investigators said it's unclear why she suddenly attacked Colangelo as he tried to help her.
"She did appear to be under the influence of something," Hester said. "We're awaiting results to figure that out."
Colangelo joined the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office in 2020 and comes from a law enforcement family. His father and brother both worked for the agency.
Shortly after joining the force, Colangelo received a life-saving award from the sheriff's office in 2020.
Mascara said Colangelo was born in Stuart, graduated from St. Lucie Centennial High School and received his law enforcement certification from Indian River State College.