Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announces no charges in incident at Cincinnati Zoo

Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced that no charges would be filed in the May 28th incident at the Cincinnati Zoo.

On May 28th a 3-year-old child gained access to the gorilla enclosure and came in contact with a 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe.  The child was visiting the zoo with his mother and 3 sisters (ages 7, 4, and 1), and his mother’s adult friend and her teenage son and 7-year-old son.

After the child fell approximately 15 feet into the gorilla enclosure, zoo visitors witnessed the gorilla approach the child and drag the child through the enclosure.  Worried for the child’s safety, the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team (“DART”) shot and killed the gorilla.  This happened approximately 10 minutes after the child entered the enclosure.   The child was between the gorilla’s legs when the gorilla was shot and killed with a single rifle shot to the head.

The child was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and treated and released.  The child did not suffer any serious injuries as a result of this incident.

The Cincinnati Police Department conducted an investigation into this incident that included 4 visits to the Cincinnati Zoo, 4 witness interviews, an interview with the child’s mother and review of a cell phone video taken by a zoo visitor in the gorilla exhibit when this occurred.  The zoo does not have any cameras in the gorilla exhibit.

Prosecutor Deters commented, “This was a tragic accident and a terrible loss for the zoo of their beloved gorilla.  However, the zoo did the right thing when they took immediate action to save the life of a young child.  A gorilla is a wild animal and, by definition, dangerous and unpredictable.

Many people on social media have condemned the mother for not watching her child carefully enough at the zoo.  None of the witnesses interviewed described the mother as anything but attentive to her children.  Our information is that the mother turned away for a few seconds to attend to another one of her young children and that is when the 3-year-old was able to climb into the gorilla enclosure.  Any parent who is honest with himself or herself would have to understand how this could happen to even the most attentive parent. 

I am very sorry about the loss of this gorilla but nothing about this situation rises to the level of a criminal charge.”