The parents of a 3-year-old boy who fell into an enclosure at a Cincinnati, Ohio zoo, prompting keepers to fatally shoot a male gorilla, will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Monday.
Police officials announced last week that they were investigating the unnamed parents over the May 28 incident, which garnered international headlines. Animal rights supporters claim the zoo acted too hastily in killing the gorilla, named Harambe, but officials said the move was necessary to protect the child from the unpredictable and powerful animal.
In a statement, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters described the incident as "a tragic accident and a terrible loss for the zoo," but said the child's parents would not face charges.
"I am very sorry about the loss of this gorilla but nothing about this situation rises to the level of a criminal charge," he said.
The zoo did the right thing in taking immediate action to save the life of a young child, he added.
"A gorilla is a wild animal and, by definition, dangerous, and unpredictable," Deters said.
He also highlighted the torrent of social media criticism directed at the boy's parents from people who say they were careless in not properly supervising their children.
He said four witnesses interviewed by police described the mother as attentive to her children.
"Our information is that the mother turned away for a few seconds to attend to another one of her young children and that is when the 3-year-old was able to climb into the gorilla enclosure," he said. "Any parent who is honest with himself or herself would have to understand how this could happen to even the most attentive parent."