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Ohio official: No decision yet on charges in gorilla case

  • CINCINNATI ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDEN VIA THE CINCINATTI ENQUIRER VIA AP

    A June 20, 2015 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot on Saturday to protect a 3-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit.

CINCINNATI » No decision has been made yet on whether charges will be brought against the parents of a 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, causing an animal response team to shoot and kill the primate, authorities said.

Cincinnati city spokesman Rocky Merz said today no determination has been made on possible charges nor has anything related to the case been released by city or county departments.

Merz said an investigation into the incident Saturday at the zoo is ongoing and that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will review the case.

Meanwhile, 911 tapes released Wednesday by Cincinnati police reveal the confusion and panic in the moments when the boy plunged into the zoo’s gorilla exhibit.

“He’s dragging my son! I can’t watch this!” a woman, who isn’t identified, says in the 911 call on Saturday.

As she pleads for help, she shouts at her son repeatedly: “Be calm!”

The zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot and killed the gorilla within 10 minutes to protect the boy after he dropped some 15 feet into the exhibit.

The boy’s family isn’t commenting on the police investigation, but they released a statement saying he continues to do well and expressed gratitude to the Cincinnati Zoo for protecting his life.

The child’s mother said in the 911 call that her son had fallen into the gorilla exhibit and a male gorilla was standing over him. The dispatcher told her that responders were on their way, and she yelled four times: “Be calm!”

Another woman is heard telling bystanders to keep quiet so they didn’t scare the gorilla. “You’re going to make him riled up. You’re riling him up,” the woman said.

A record of police calls shows nine minutes passed between the first emergency call about the boy falling into the enclosure and when the child was safe.

Since then, there have been numerous questions about the how the child got past the barriers around the exhibit.

The zoo says it will look at whether it needs to reinforce the barriers even though it considers the enclosure more secure than what’s required.

A federal inspection less than two months ago found no problems with the gorilla exhibit, but earlier inspections reported issues including the potential danger to the public from a March incident involving wandering polar bears inside a behind-the-scenes service hallway.

On Wednesday, the boy’s family said he had a checkup by his doctor and “is still doing well.” The family said they continue to “praise God” and also are thankful to the zoo “for their actions taken to protect our child.”

While they have been blamed for the gorilla’s death by some people during a storm of social media and other commentary on the death, the family expressed appreciation for those offering support. The statement said some even have offered money, which they won’t accept.

At least two animal rights groups were holding the zoo responsible for the death of the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, charging that the barrier made up of a fence, bushes and a moat wasn’t adequate.

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  • Obviously the barriers weren’t adequate if a 3 yr. old could get into the enclosure. Mom failed big time too. She can “praise God” all she wants, but somehow I don’t think he’s looking down to fondly on her.

  • What the heck was the mom doing while her kid jumped in to the gorilla pit? Maybe her phone was more important than her kid?
    I heard that she won’t be suing the zoo, how cute is that ………Maybe the zoo should be suing her?

    • Hitaxpayer,

      Run the search terms CINCINNATI GORILLA BARRIER through your favored search engine (Google will do). You should be directed to at least several sites where parts of the barrier is visible in photographs. Hint: the UK’s Mirror seems to come up first.

      As far as the actual physical “barrier” goes, by itself it looks pretty flimsy until you realize that it works in conjunction with the bushes running alongside and the steep slope descending to the shallow moat. It doesn’t seem the overall design is meant to stop a determined man, woman, or child from getting to the lip of the slope. I believe the steep slope itself is supposed to be the real deterrent to keep people away from the gotillas, and in turn, the gorillas themselves from escaping. The thin and fairly low railing is mostly just suggestive, meaning KEEP OUT.

      Hope this helps.

  • Another woman is heard telling bystanders to keep quiet so they didn’t scare the gorilla. “You’re going to make him riled up. You’re riling him up,” the woman said.

    Well, there was at least one smart hominid at the gorilla exhibit that day (excluding the gorilla himself of course). It leaves me with hope that we humans can continually evolve for the better.

  • What a tragic life this gorilla lived – imprisoned for 17 years and then shot because someone wasn’t watching their child. It sure seems like somebody should be charged with something.

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