New details of tiger attack released

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Police Department on Friday released dramatic notes from police dispatchers concerning the Christmas Day tiger mauling that killed Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, and seriously injured two men -- revealing new details about the sequence of events.

Police Chief Heather Fong said at a news conference outside the zoo grounds that investigators had wrapped up their examination of the zoo grounds and found no evidence that the tiger was intentionally released. The criminal investigation is continuing.

Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo said the zoo would reopen Thursday.

Police said no results were yet available on forensic testing to determine if a shoe print found on the fence near the tiger enclosure matched the tread on any of the victims’ shoes.

Brothers Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, remained in stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital, recovering from bite and claw wounds.

Sgt. Neville Gittens, a police spokesman, said the brothers were interviewed Thursday as part of the criminal investigation, but he did not characterize them as suspects.

Police still could not say how long the tiger was loose before authorities were notified. The 17 pages of dispatch notes released Friday documented the 19-minute interval between the first 911 call and the tiger’s fatal shooting by officers.

The first entry, at 5:08 p.m., begins by quoting an employee from the zoo cafe where the two brothers were saved from the tiger.

“A very agitated male is claiming he was bitten by an animal,” the cafe worker said.

Police were immediately dispatched to the scene, and in the chaotic situation that followed, the victims were initially regarded as mentally disturbed, the notes indicate.

“Zoo personnel dispatch now say there are two males who the zoo [considers] 800 [police code for psychological impairment] . . . But one is in fact bleeding from the back of the head . . . at the Terrace Cafe.”

About a minute later, a flurry of messages showed the gravity of the situation.

“The tiger is out of the gate, and they are locking up the zoo,” a dispatcher wrote. “Tiger is loose. The zoo has it in lockdown. . . . There are people inside the zoo. Zoo personnel are going around the zoo to [advise] people to leave.”

At 5:20, this dispatch was recorded, apparently referring to Sousa: “Located victim puncture hole to neck. Medics with him now.”

Minutes later, the tiger was sighted at the cafe mauling Paul Dhaliwal.

“Have the tiger blue on blue,” the dispatch read, indicating a code for a potentially dangerous situation for officers. “Have tiger boom boom. . . . Cafe -- have tiger, on foot, attacking victim, blu on blu.”

Slightly before 5:28, the officers ended the immediate crisis.

“Stop shooting,” the log read, “have cat, shot cat.”

The transcript began after the initial horror outside the tiger grotto where Sousa’s body was found.

The teenager’s father said his son intervened when the tiger attacked his friend.

“My son could have gotten away, could have ran, but he decided to stay, to help his friends by distracting the animal,” said Carlos Sousa Sr. in an interview Friday. “Friends do stand by each other.”

Gittens said the younger Sousa and his two friends were together outside the tiger grotto when the animal came at them.

“The 23-year-old was the first one who was attacked,” Gittens said, adding that the other two yelled in an effort to scare the tiger off.

“The actions of the 19- and 17-year-olds diverted the tiger’s attention, and the attack turned to the 17-year-old.”

After killing Sousa, the tiger followed a bloody trail left by Kulbir Dhaliwal about 300 yards to the Terrace Cafe, where it mauled his younger brother, police said.

Friends of the dead youth created a Web page to mourn his passing.

“ur in a better place and ur our angel looking over us always,” wrote Sherlane. “no matter what u will have a place in my heart.”

The Sousa family’s spokesman, James Geagan, said funeral arrangements were pending.

Carlos Sousa Sr. said he planned legal action in response to his son’s death.

“Put yourself in my shoes,” he said. “Money isn’t going to replace my son. But I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.