The mother of a 3-year-old boy who tumbled into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo late last month won’t face criminal charges in the wake of the incident, a prosecutor in Ohio said Monday.
“If anyone does not believe a 3-year-old can scamper off very quickly, they’ve never had kids,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said at a press conference. “Because they can and they do.”
The boy crawled through a barrier at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and fell into the outdoor gorilla center on May 28. After he dropped into the exhibit, a 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe picked up and dragged the child, zoo director Thane Maynard later told reporters.
Officials tasked with handling the situation determined that the child’s life was in danger, and the animal was fatally shot.
“The zoo lost a beautiful animal and one that many people in this area have enjoyed watching for a long time, but it’s still an animal,” Deters said. “It does not equate human life. And they felt that this boy’s life was in jeopardy, and they did, they made the painful choice to do what they did.”
Deters on Monday said that witnesses who were on the scene that day described an attentive mother, who had “simply turned her back.” The mother visited the zoo with four children, including the 3-year-old, Deters’ office said in a news release. One of the mother’s friends was also present, as well as that woman’s teenager and 7-year-old.
Harambe had the child between its legs when it was killed with a single shot to the head, the release stated. The child was taken to a local hospital after the encounter, but wasn’t seriously injured.
“It’s sad enough that the gorilla was taken out,” Deters said. “But it could have been a lot worse.”
The gorilla exhibit is expected to reopen Tuesday, the zoo said in a news release.
In a statement, the boy’s family said it was “very pleased” with the decision, which was what they had expected.
“This is one more step in allowing us to put this tragic episode behind us and return to our normal family life,” the statement said. “We extend thanks to all of those who have been praying for us and who have supported us through this trying ordeal and praise to God for His mercy and grace.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Mark Berman, Sarah Larimer, Lindsey Bever