Mother whose son fell into Cincinnati zoo gorilla pen will not face charges
Published 06/06/2016 | 20:03
The mother of a three-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla pen, forcing zookeepers to shoot the animal dead, will not face charges, prosecutors have announced.
Animal rights campaigners had called for the Michelle Gregg to be prosecuted for putting her son Isiah in danger, and she became the target of online fury. A petition to have her prosecuted accumulated over 500,000 signatures.
But Joseph Deters, prosecutor for Hamilton County, said she would not be charged over the May 28 incident at Cincinnati zoo.
“If she had been in the bathroom smoking crack that would be a different story,” he said. “But she had three kids, she was attentive to them.
“By all accounts, this mother did not act in any way to present this child to any harm. She had three kids. She turned her back.
“If anyone doesn’t believe a three year old can scamper off quickly they have not had kids, because they can, and they do.”
Mrs Gregg said she was known to keep an eye on her children.
"As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child,” she said, in the furious aftermath of the event.
“If anyone knows me, I keep a tight watch on my kids.
"Accidents happen, but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”
Mr Deters said he had spoken to the staff at the zoo, and they were “devastated” at the death of Harambe, a 450lb male gorilla.
The zoo has raised the public barrier to 42 inches, added solid wood beams to the top and knotted rope netting to the bottom.
"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, director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
Mr Deters praised the zoo for taking action to prevent it happening again.
And he said he was “a bit taken aback” at the venom directed at Mrs Gregg.
“A child scampering away, it’s not foreseeable that they will fall into the gorilla pen,” he said.
“I’ve been a bit taken aback by some folk’s moral equivalent of human life and animal life. We could have had a genuine tragedy here. It was sad enough that the gorilla was killed.”
Police are still investigating whether charges should be brought against the zoo, although this was believed unlikely.