HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — No charges will be filed against the mother of the three-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office in Ohio said Monday, June 6th.
After the boy slipped into the enclosure May 28, he had a 10-minute encounter with Harambe, a 450-pound gorilla.
Harambe pulled the boy across a moat and was fatally shot by zoo personnel. A witness told CNN the boy’s mother was temporarily distracted by other children when the boy fell into the exhibit.
Will the drama surrounding Harambe’s death come to an end, or is this just the beginning?
Video footage shows Harambe standing next to the child and dragging him through the water. The zoo has staunchly defended its decision to shoot Harambe as necessary to protect the child.
The boy was not seriously injured, but much of the scrutiny in the aftermath of the incident has fallen on his family. Authorities conducted a home visit over the weekend with the boy and his mother, said Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.
Authorities have said the boy’s mother was with the child when he slipped past a fence and into the zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit on Memorial Day weekend.
One witness said she overheard the boy telling his mother he was going to get into the moat.
“The little boy himself had already been talking about wanting to go in, go in, get in the water and his mother is like, ‘No you’re not, no you’re not,'” said Kimberley Ann Perkins O’Connor.
The mother admonished her son to behave before becoming distracted by other children with her, O’Connor said.
“Her attention was drawn away for seconds, maybe a minute, and then he was up and in before you knew it,” she said.
For days, the internet was barraged with think pieces on the incident — some condemning the boy’s parents.
They became the center of criticism as calls for criminal charges mounted. An online petition seeking “Justice for Harambe” received more than 500,000 signatures.
Police questioned the family
Last week, the Cincinnati police said they were reviewing the incident with a focus on the actions of the boy’s family.
A police spokeswoman told CNN that officers would determine if charges needed to be brought, which would then be discussed with the prosecutor’s office.
The parents cooperated with police and were evaluating whether they would seek legal representation, family spokeswoman Gail Myers said in a statement last week.
The family declined donations, saying it was something “we do not want and will not accept.”
They asked that gifts be directed to the Cincinnati Zoo “in Harambe’s name” in a statement through Myers.
Impact on the zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit is scheduled to reopen to the public Tuesday.
The zoo said it 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, in a statement.
Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have launched investigations into the Harambe episode.
The USDA, which inspects the zoo annually, will look into whether the facility was in compliance with a federal law that monitors the treatment of animals in research and exhibition. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is the group that accredits zoos.
“In the case of this incident, which involved a child and a critically endangered animal, our collective goal is to take steps to assure it doesn’t happen again,” Kris Vehrs, the interim president and CEO of the zoo association, said in a statement.