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RUSSELL LALA: Lions, tigers and forgiveness

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http://www.myfoxtwincities.com - One of the first things most people notice about Russell Lala is his passion for a nice set of wheels.



"I find the ones on the Internet that don't run, don't look so good," Lala explained. "Fix 'em up, get 'em to run, then sell it."



Lala spends most of his free time helping his friends or his father work on cars, but he uses a motorized wheelchair to get around himself.



"Basically, it's a big roller coaster," Lala told FOX 9 News, "having to overcome different things constantly -- but it all gets better eventually even though it doesn't seem like it, you know?"



Lala was just 10 years old when he became quadriplegic, unable to feel or move anything from his neck down. In 2005, he and his family visited his father's best friend, Chuck Mock, at Best Buy Auto Part Store in Royalton, Minn., just a few miles up the road. At the time, Mock had a collection of exotic animals that included 11 lions and tigers.



Mock unlocked a cage to show Lala and his father a tiger named Georgette and a lion named Leo inside a back room, but Georgette pushed past Mock and went straight for the boy.



"I was like, 'Woah! I'm going to die here!" Lala recalled. "I felt it. I'm like, 'Please, just take me now so I don't have to go through this misery.'"



Mock blacked out while his father and Mock struggled to get Georgette back in her cage. Lala woke up in a pool of his own blood before Leo grabbed him and dragged him to safety.



"When the lion came out, he bit down on the back of my neck like where the scruff would be on a cat," Lala remembered. "That's what caused the most damage. He was trying to save me, but he was kind of doing more harm than good."





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