World & Nation

No charges filed against boy’s mother in gorilla death case, Ohio prosecutor says

Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo
A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on May 30.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

An Ohio prosecutor says he isn’t seeking charges against the mother of a 3-year-old boy who got into the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla exhibit, resulting in the shooting of an endangered gorilla to protect him.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the decision Monday. He says the child’s mother had three other children with her, and she was attending to them when the 3-year-old “just scampered off.”

The zoo says it was the first such breach in Gorilla World’s 38 years of existence, but the exhibit will reopen Tuesday with a higher, reinforced barrier. The boy apparently climbed over the barrier May 28 before falling about 15 feet into a shallow moat.

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A special-response team shot and killed the gorilla, 17-year-old Harambe, after concluding that the boy’s life was at stake.

A Cincinnati police report identifies the boy’s mother as Michelle Gregg, 32, who works at a preschool near Cincinnati. The child’s father isn’t named in the report, and it’s unclear whether he was at the zoo at the time of the incident.

The boy’s family has said he is doing well at home after being treated at a hospital. Police said he had scrapes on his head and knee.

Police released 911 tapes last week that highlighted the confusion and panic in the moments when the boy plunged into the gorilla exhibit.


“He’s dragging my son! I can’t watch this!” a woman says in the 911 call. As she pleads for help, she shouts at her son repeatedly: “Be calm!”

The police report states that witnesses said the gorilla initially appeared to be protecting the child, but after onlookers began screaming, he became “agitated and scared” and began dragging the child.

The boy’s family has expressed gratitude to the zoo for protecting his life.


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10:06 a.m.: This post has been updated with the prosecutor’s decision not to charge the mother.

This article was originally published at 6:20 a.m.

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