The Easter Bunny at a mall in Wausau, Wis., could have used the help of McGruff the Crime Dog when an unknown man jumped him in front of a gathering of children.

Travis Peterson, 29, dressed as the Easter Bunny at the Wausau Center Mall, said he was greeting kids Saturday when an apparently drunk man hopped into his lap, wrapped his arm around his neck in a headlock and punched him three times in the mouth.

"I was just sitting there in my chair, waving to the kids, and he came up and jumped in my lap and just started hitting my head," the Bunny told the local Wausau Daily Herald.

The suspect, whom police identified as 21-year-old Montell T. Howard, fled as shocked children looked on.

Howard was nabbed Monday afternoon when mall security caught sight of him returning to the shopping center, the Herald reported. Peterson, still in Easter Bunny gear, positively identified Howard as the man who had assaulted him, according to the paper.

Police arrested him for disorderly conduct; he was later released from jail.

The Easter Bunny said he smelled alcohol on his assailant's breath and suspected he was trying to show off for friends, according to the Herald.

"Even if he wasn't trying to harm me, he chattered my teeth pretty good," Peterson said. "It was totally uncalled for, and he did it in front of a bunch of kids."

Authorities said the fluffy, well-padded bunny outfit protected Peterson from significant injury.

"Because of the bunny suit, (the victim) didn't get hurt, but it was unusual to get hit this way," police officer Chang Lee wrote in a report of Saturday's incident.

But Peterson said he is still feeling some physical effects of the attack.

"Little fragments of (paint from) the bunny's eye got into my eye, and it's kind of irritating right now," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.