Amid an uproar in Cincinnati, where a gorilla was shot dead after dragging around a boy who had slipped into a zoo enclosure, US police said on Tuesday they were investigating the actions of the child’s family.
The shooting of the teenage gorilla, Harambe, on Saturday, prompted a chorus of online criticism, vigils for the animal, complaints by animal rights activists and petitions blaming the boy’s mother.
The episode was even raised at a news conference held on Tuesday by Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
As video showing the boy and the huge gorilla continued to be played on television and online, officials raised the possibility of criminal charges.
Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, said the matter had been referred to the Cincinnati Police Department for investigation.
“At this point, everybody is just looking into it to see what’s going on,” she said. “I can’t tell you that anyone will be charged with anything.”
A police statement released later on Tuesday said the department was investigating “the actions of the parents/family that led up to the incident” but was not focusing on “the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo, which is under the purview of the United States department of agriculture.”
An animal rights group said on Tuesday it had filed a negligence complaint against the zoo with the department.
The boy’s family, who’s name has not been released, said on Wednesday the boy is doing well and suggested donations in the gorilla’s name.
The family said it had been offered money, without specifying what the funds were intended for, but said it would not accept financial gifts.
“If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name,” it said in a statement to Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT.
The boy’s mother previously said on Facebook that he suffered a concussion and scrapes but was otherwise fine. In its statement on Wednesday, the family said, “Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well. We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child.”
Zoo officials at first reported the boy’s age as four, but the police statement said officials had verified that he was three.
The boy slipped through the Gorilla World exhibit’s barrier and fell into a shallow moat while visiting the zoo with his mother on Saturday afternoon. Videos of the encounter posted to Twitter showed the silverback gorilla dragging him around like a toy, while a woman could be heard calling to the sobbing child: “Mommy loves you! I’m right here.”
After about 10 minutes, zoo workers shot the animal.
Thane Maynard, the zoo’s director, has forcefully rejected criticism of the decision to kill the gorilla instead of using a tranquilliser dart. He said at a news conference on Monday that the dart could have caused the animal, capable of crushing a coconut with his hands, to become even more agitated.
New York Times/Reuters