© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Family Won't Be Charged In Gorilla Incident At Cincinnati Zoo

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now news that a mother whose child fell into a gorilla enclosure will not be charged with any crime. A worker at the Cincinatti Zoo was forced to shoot the gorilla to rescue the boy. And the death of that western lowland gorilla, an endangered species, set off a round of condemnation of the mother, especially on social media. Authorities in Cincinnati now say it was not neglect, but a tragic accident. Tana Weingartner of member station WVXU has the latest.

TANA WEINGARTNER, BYLINE: The family of the little boy says the prosecutor's decision is a step toward helping them put this terrible episode behind them. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says an investigation turned up no evidence the boy's mother recklessly endangered her child's life.

JOE DETERS: And if anyone doesn't believe a 3-year-old can't scamper off very quickly, they've never had kids because they can. And they do.

WEINGARTNER: Deter says four witnesses described an attentive mother who turned her back for a moment to help another child.

DETERS: Now, that is not heedless indifference to the result - probable result in my mind. It's not even close. It's not even a close call.

WEINGARTNER: At a park just a few miles from the zoo, children swing and slide while others splash in fountains. Friends Amy Currin and Maura Hayskar sit on blankets with a picnic lunch and their three daughters. Currin calls the decision fair and just. And though her daughter has never wandered off, she says it can happen in an instant.

AMY CURRIN: So no, but I have been with other mothers who have had what we called runners (laughter). And it's very difficult to keep an eye on the one that's not running if the other one is running.

WEINGARTNER: As she talks, Hayskar points to her own daughter.

MAURA HAYSKAR: I had a daughter that, in a flick of an eye, would run away from me. I also have her sister that has special needs, so very hard.

WEINGARTNER: But others, including father of two, Paul Gibson, disagree.

PAUL GIBSON: In my opinion, I think that any time that a child is harmed or put in danger that the parent should be held responsible.

WEINGARTNER: Though interviewed separately, the three ended up talking about their differences and found some common ground.

CURRIN: I mean, to see your child down there being hurdled around by a gorilla - I mean, that's - that's - that would be...

HAYSKAR: Terrifying.

GIBSON: Absolutely. And even a step further, how she's been crucified is horrible.

WEINGARTNER: The Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla exhibit has been closed since the incident. It reopens today with a taller, more secure barrier in place. For NPR News, I'm Tana Weingartner in Cincinnati. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.