Criminal charges likely after gorilla killing

636001380220345695-GorillaAPCincinnati police are apparently going to take another look at potential criminal charges after a toddler fell into the gorilla pen at the zoo and a gorilla has to be killed.

After the incident Saturday, police said they were not considering charges against the 3-year-old’s parents.

But on Tuesday, police said in a statement that the department is “looking at the facts and circumstances” that led the boy to end up in the pen, and will “review” the actions of the boy’s mother and others who were there.

“It’s too early to say whether it was recklessness on the part of the parent,” Lt. Steve Saunders told The Enquirer in an interview.

“We’re just doing our due diligence to make sure we know what happened.”

Tuesday was the first time police formally acknowledged that an investigation is underway regarding Saturday’s incident, which led zoo officials to shoot and kill the 17-year-old male, silverback gorilla.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Tuesday in a statement that after the police investigation is completed, his office will confer with police about possible criminal charges.

If police suspect possible neglect, authorities said they are required by law to report it to the county child protection agency where the family lives.

It could not be confirmed Tuesday if the boy lives in Butler or Hamilton county.

A spokesman for Hamilton County Job and Family Services said the county agency that receives the report “would have to weigh factors in that report and determine whether to open an investigation.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting a separate investigation regarding the safety and operation of the zoo, officials said.

The first 911 call about a boy falling into the moat surrounding the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla exhibit was made at 3:52 p.m. Saturday.

Less than 10 minutes later, a member of the zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot and killed the 450-pound gorilla, according to police dispatch records obtained by The Enquirer. Officials have said the 3-year-old boy was between the animal’s legs when the shot was fired.

Witnesses told police that the boy climbed over a 3-foot-tall fence and went through bushes that separate visitors from the moat. The boy fell down into the shallow water, about 15 feet below, according to a police report.

The boy then “proceeded to play in the water,” the report says.

Also, according to the report: The gorilla, named Harambe, climbed down into the water and picked up the boy. As onlookers began screaming, the gorilla became “agitated and scared.”

The boy’s mother was among several people who called 911. She told a dispatcher the gorilla was “standing over (her) child,” according to the dispatch logs. Police have not yet released the actual 911 call recordings.

About a minute later, dispatchers reported that a witness said the “gorilla has (the) child and is dragging (him) around the pen.”

Videos posted on social media show the animal dragging the boy through the moat before disappearing from view.

“Gorilla holding child on top of the rocks – lots of yelling heard,” the dispatch log says. “Gorilla swinging child back and forth on top of rocks.”

The gorilla was shot and killed before police arrived.

The name of the boy and his mother are redacted from police reports as well as a report from the Cincinnati Fire Department. Officials have declined to release their names. A fire official cited the federal health information privacy law.

The boy was taken to a local hospital with “a concussion and a few scrapes,” his mother said in a Facebook post. “Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place.”

The boy was released from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on Saturday night. In a statement Sunday, the family said he was “doing just fine” and thanked zoo staff for their quick action. (Courtesy


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