After Saturday's shooting death of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, authorities have announced that they are investigating the parents of the child that fell into the enclosure.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer
, the Hamilton County prosecutor's office issued a statement Tuesday saying that a police investigation has been launched to determine whether or not the boy's parents acted criminally.
"The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department," the prosecutor's office statement said
"Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges. When the investigation and review are complete, we will update the media."
The police said that detectives will be "looking at the facts and circumstances" leading up to the boy's presence in a moat surrounding the exhibit.
The New York Post identified
the mother as Michelle Gregg, 32, and the father as Deonne Dickerson. The Post did not give an age for Dickerson.
"It's too early to say whether it was recklessness on the part of the parent," Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders told the Enquirer. "We're just doing our due diligence to make sure we know what happened."
Harambe, an endangered western lowland gorilla, was shot and killed Saturday in the zoo's gorilla exhibit after a 3-year-old boy climbed into the enclosure, wrote WCPO-TV
. Video showed the gorilla dragging the boy through the moat at one point during the 10-minute encounter, stated the television station.
Authorities updated the child's age after initially reporting that the boy was 4 years old, wrote the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, said, according to WCPO-TV, that Harambe was the first animal that the zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team has had to put down in the zoo's history.
"I'm not a finger-pointer,” Maynard said during Monday's news conference. "We [at the zoo] are the ones who took the loss on this. And it's a great loss."
Witnesses told police that the boy scaled a 3-foot-fence, walked through bushes, and fell down into the shallow water, about 15 feet into the enclosure. The report stated that the boy then "proceeded to play in the water" until being confronted by the 400-pound gorilla.
The boy's mother was among several people who called 911 after the boy was found in the enclosure, the police report stated.
A witness told People magazine
that the she overheard the boy tell his mother that he "wanted to swim with the gorilla" as the mother got ready to leave the exhibit with another female and other children.
"People around me were talking about how big the gorilla was, calling him King Kong, and I heard him say 'I wanna go!' and the mom was like, 'No, you're not!'" Kim O'Connor, who filmed the incident, told People.
"She was putting kids in the strollers – there were four or five kids total – and getting ready to leave the exhibit. She didn't have him by the hand, and at one point, he must have been behind her, out of sight," O'Connor continued.
Animal rights activists continued to take issue with the parents and the zoo. Julia Gallucci, a primatologist with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told WCPO-TV
that the zoo should have had a secondary barrier between visitors and the animals to prevent such a breach.
The incident has spawned numerous online petitions. One, titled "Justice for Harambe,"
which called for an investigation into the parents, had more than 448,000 signatures as of Wednesday. Another petition calling for a law that would bring charges to people who bring harm to an endangered animal "due to the negligence," had more than 169,000 signatures.
Saunders told the Cincinnati Enquirer
that there had been indirect death threats made toward Gregg and are informing her of any developments.
"We're going to keep her in the loop," Saunders said. "We're going to err on the side of safety for her and her family."
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