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Pictured: Parents accused of neglect after boy fell into gorilla enclosure before 'gentle giant' was shot dead

Mirror Mirror 31/05/2016 By David Raven

undefined © Provided by Mirror undefined This is the first picture of parents accused of neglect after their son fell into a gorilla's enclosure forcing workers to shoot the 'gentle giant' dead.

Mother Michelle Gregg, 32, reportedly has four children to father Deonne Dickerson, 37, seen smiling above in a people carrier car.

Yesterday police confirmed they are investigating whether to charge them with neglect after their four-year-old boy fell into the cage of 17-year-old Harambe.

Fearing for the safety of the youngster, zoo staff shot the endangered primate, sparking fury amongst animal lovers.

But footage later appeared to show the 'gentle giant' trying to protect the boy.

Both parents have faced criticism for social media users and animal rights campaigners, who claim they should have been keeping a closer eye on their child.

Some animal lovers even suggested they should have been shot and killed instead of the gorilla Harambe.

© Provided by Mirror Michelle Gregg later defended her actions on Facebook in a post claiming "accidents can happen."

Responding to the criticism on Facebook, she said: "I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one.

"For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.

"My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes... no broken bones or internal injuries.

"As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today."

Yesterday astonishing new footage how Harambe the gorilla was protecting a four-year-old boy who fell into his cage - minutes before he was shot dead.

Moments later, the 17-year-old gorilla was fatally shot by zoo staff in a bid to protect the boy after falling 12 feet into the enclosure.

However eyewitnesses have claimed that the gorilla was showing no aggressive behaviour towards the boy.

It is claimed that screams from those watching the unfolding situation panicked the animal, causing him to drag the child at a quick speed across the water.

And in this latest video from the dramatic scene, the boy is seen sat calmly next to the massive animal.

In one moment, the gorilla even appears to wrap his arms around the boy.

At one point the boy and gorilla even appear to briefly hold hands.

Brittany Nicely was at the zoo with her children when she witnessed the incident.

Writing on Facebook after the incident, she said: "R.I.P Harambe so so sad.

"Witnessing this situation and hearing them shoot him has been one of the most horrific things I have ever been a part of.

© Provided by Mirror

"My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the people who witnessed it.

"Also sending prayers for a speedy recovery of the little boy!"

Mrs Nicely has also claimed that the gorilla was not being aggressive towards the boy.

"I tried to prevent it," she added. "I tried to grab him and I just couldn’t get to him fast enough.

"What the first responders saw, I’m just not sure... They said he was violently throwing the child around, which seems crazy to me.

"They have a picture of the boy sitting in front of the gorilla moments before they shot him."

Jerry Stones, 74, from Texas, raised 17-year-old Harambe since birth, and described him as a "gentle giant".

Speaking of his reaction to the news, he said: "An old man can cry, too.

Replay Video
"He was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It's like losing a member of the family."

“I raised him from a baby, he was a sweet cute little guy. He grew up to be a pretty, beautiful male. He was very intelligent. Very, very intelligent.

"His mind was going constantly. He was just such a sharp character."

The gorilla's former zoo also paid tribute to the animal on Facebook.

Police officers are deciding whether to charge the parents with child neglect.

Animal lovers are outraged after the endangered animal had to be shot dead by zoo staff to protect the youngster.

More than 70,000 petitioners have signed up to a campaign on Change.org calling for the parents to be investigated after the child fell up to 12 feet into the enclosure.

And fury at Cincinnati Zoo continues to mount as animal lovers demand an explanation as to why the 17-year-old gorilla named Herambe was not tranquilised.

© Provided by Mirror Eyewitnesses have even claimed that the animal was NOT hurting the child... and was in fact trying to protect it but was panicked by the screams of onlookers.

The petition reads: "This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.

"Witnesses claim that they heard the child state that he wished to go into the enclosure and was actively trying to breach the barriers.

"This should have prompted the parents to immediately remove the child from the vicinity. It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child's injuries and possible trauma.

"We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life."

© Provided by Mirror "Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department hold the parents responsible."

And police in Ohio have said that charges could be brought against the parents as their investigation continues.

The child was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre and is said to have sustained no serious injuries.

Social media users have also slammed the zoo for killing the gorilla, despite claims by zoo bosses that the child was in "a life-threatening situation".

One user wrote: "Pretty sad that an endangered gorilla was killed today because parents couldn't watch their kid."

Another said: "Today, an endangered gorilla was shot at the Cincy Zoo because a toddler's parents were to damn lazy to watch their child."

Director Thane Maynard said that authorities had no other choice but to put the 400-pound-plus male gorilla down.

© Provided by Mirror He added: "They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life.

"It could have been very bad."

Zoo bosses claim the child crawled through a barrier before falling into the moat area.

Mr Maynard added that this was the first time that his team had killed a zoo animal in such an emergency situation.

He called it "a very sad day" at the zoo.

Director of Cincinnati Zoo gives statement on gorilla incident "They made the right choice"


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