Ohio Prosecutor Says No Charges Will Be Filed Against Mother of Boy Who Fell in Gorilla Enclosure

June 6, 2016 1:28 pm Last Updated: June 8, 2016 4:16 pm

The mother of the 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo will not be charged with a crime, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office in Ohio said Monday.

The boy slipped into the gorilla’s habitat on May 28 and had an encounter with the 450-pound animal, named Harambe. Witnesses said the boy was dragged around for 10 minutes before Harambe was fatally shot by zoo officials.

WKYC and CNN reported at 1 p.m. that Ohio prosecutors won’t file charges.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters issued a statement about the matter. Four witnesses to the incident were interviewed, and he said that the mother had three children at the zoo with her that day.

“If you don’t believe a 3-year-old can scamper away so quickly, you’ve never had kids,” Deters told WKYC.

Deters added the mother’s actions were “not even close” to meriting a reckless endangerment charge.

(YouTube)
(YouTube)

Witnesses told investigators that the mother was attentive to her children, turning her back on the 3-year-old for only a few seconds.

“I don’t know about you all, but I might have been dead that day. Because I would have gone in there,” Deters said.

Deters added that the Cincinnati Zoo won’t be charged. “I don’t know what the charge would be,” he said. “I can’t imagine any charges against them.”

A number of people on social media and elsewhere petitioned to get the mother charged with a crime—saying the gorilla didn’t deserve to die.

The zoo responded by erecting a higher, more secure barrier around the gorilla pit. The zoo plans on opening up the gorilla enclosure for the first time since the incident on Tuesday.

A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Cincinnati. A gorilla named Harambe was killed by a special zoo response team on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy slipped into an exhibit and it was concluded his life was in danger. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, on May 30, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

“Our exhibit goes above and beyond standard safety requirements, but in light of what happened, we have modified the outer public barrier to make entry even more difficult,” said Thane Maynard, head of the Cincinnati Zoo, in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have said they will investigate the incident.

“In the case of this incident, which involved a child and a critically endangered animal, our collective goal is to take steps to assure it doesn’t happen again,” Kris Vehrs, head of the zoo association, said in a statement.

Police also released the 911 call recording after the child fell.

“He’s dragging my son! I can’t watch this!” a woman says in the 911 call, pleading for help. She shouts at her son repeatedly: “Be calm!”

Animal rights activists and mourners gather for a Memorial Day vigil  outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016 in Cincinnati for Harambe, the gorilla killed Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy slipped into an exhibit and a special zoo response team concluded his life was in danger. There has been an outpouring on social media of people upset about the killing of the member of an endangered species.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Animal rights activists and mourners gather for a Memorial Day vigil outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on May 30, 2016 in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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.

The police report states that witnesses said the gorilla initially appeared to be protecting the child, but after onlookers started screaming, it became “agitated and scared” and began dragging the child.

The boy’s family has expressed gratitude to the zoo for protecting his life.

“Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept,” the family said in the statement. “If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.