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No Criminal Charges for Parents of Child Who Got into Gorilla Enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2016 | Blog

A recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo generated both fascination and outrage as video footage of a young boy trapped in a gorilla enclosure circulated on the Internet. The video images show a small child inside the gorilla area and hovered over by Harambe, a massive 450-pound gorilla.

Ultimately, zoo officials believed that they had little choice but to shoot, and kill, Harambe in order to protect the child’s life.

Cincinnati Police: No Criminal Charges against the Boy’s Family

When the boy slipped under a fence and found his way into the gorilla moat, his mother was reportedly preoccupied. This prompted a great deal of outrage from people who learned about the scary incident by reading online articles or seeing video footage of the boy being dragged around by the gorilla. There were also calls for the child’s parents to be criminally charged for child neglect and endangering the welfare of a child.

The Cincinnati Police Department reviewed the actions of the boy’s parents leading up to the incident and determined that the family was not criminally negligent. As a result, no criminal charges were filed against the family. Additionally, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office is not expected to go any further with the investigation or pursue criminal charges in the case.

One factor in the decision to not file charges against the boy’s parents was police interviews of several witnesses. A person who saw the incident unfold at the Cincinnati Zoo said that the boy’s mother tried to get him to behave but he refused.

Interestingly, Cincinnati police did not review the actions of the zoo to determine whether more could have been done to prevent the boy from gaining access to the gorilla enclosure.

Outside Investigations of the Cincinnati Zoo

Although local law enforcement is not looking into whether the zoo failed to adequately protect visitors from entering the gorilla enclosure and created a potentially dangerous situation for all involved, outside agencies do plan to conduct independent investigations. For instance, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums already said that it will be “taking a closer look” at the zoo to figure out if there were any safety failures and, if so, whether anything can be done to make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again in the future.

Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will conduct an inspection of the zoo in order to determine whether the Cincinnati Zoo was in compliance with federal laws. In the past, the zoo has been found to be deficient as far as fully complying with certain provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. Within the last three years, official reviews showed that the zoo did not comply with federal law on at least nine occasions, with two of the incidents having negative effects on the health or wellness of the zoo’s animals.

For additional information, see the CNN.com article, “Cincinnati Gorilla Incident: Police Investigating Boy’s Family.”

If you or a loved one is being investigated for a crime, it is critical that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Garber Law are prepared to help you fight your criminal charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.