CINCINNATI: Police said Tuesday they are investigating the parents of the 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and had to be rescued by a team that shot the 400-pound animal to death.
Authorities said the investigation will look at the parents’ actions leading up to the incident — not the operation of the zoo, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Police will then confer with prosecutors over whether charges should be filed, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said. Separately, USDA said it will investigate for any violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The incident has triggered a furor online, with some saying the boy’s mother should be charged with child endangering, while others want the zoo held responsible for the animal’s death.
Zoo authorities said the unidentified boy climbed over a 3-foot-high railing, walked through bushes and plunged about 15 feet into a shallow moat. The zoo’s dangerous-animal response team killed the gorilla as it dragged the boy through the water, authorities said. The boy had only minor scrapes on his head and knee, according to police.
Ohio State University criminal law professor Ric Simmons said he doubts a charge of child endangering could be proved in this instance, since the offense typically involves leaving a youngster unattended for an extended time, not a case of a child momentarily wandering off.
“The mother was standing next to a zoo exhibit and lost track of her child for perhaps a minute or so,” Simmons said. “That has happened to almost every parent in the world in a public place.”