Mother of Child Who Fell Into Gorilla Enclosure Defends Herself: 'Accidents Happen'
The mother of the 4-year-old boy who climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo is under siege.
Michelle Gregg, 32, was heard on the disturbing video trying to comfort her son as the 450-pound silverback gorilla, named Harambe, dragged him across the moat.
The child's father, identified as Deonne Dickerson, was not at the zoo with the rest of his family.
Gregg posted a message defending herself: "As a society, we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes of their child. And if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen."
Cincinnati police are now investigating the incident.
"The Cincinnati Police Department is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the incident with the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo," police spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy said Tuesday. "After the review, we will determine if charges need to be brought forward. If it is determined charges need to be brought forward, we would then discuss it with the Hamilton County prosecutor's office."
It is unclear if the investigation will focus on the zoo’s actions or on the boy’s mother.
An online petition, Justice For Harambe, is calling for the mother to be prosecuted. It has more than 300,000 signatures.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to social media to vilify the couple and demand she be investigated for child neglect.
The woman who shot the video, Kimberley O’Connor, says she heard the child tell his mom he was going into the enclosure.
“I heard the exchange while I’m waiting. ‘I’m going to go in.’ ‘No, you’re not.’ ‘I’m going to go in.’ ‘No, you’re not.’ The mother turns around to her other children,” O’Connor said according to CBS News.
In an interview with Inside Edition, O'Connor came to Gregg's defense, saying: "They don't know what the mother did what she didn't do how panicked she was. They don't know what that animal was going to do with that little boy or what he could have done."
She added: "I only released the video so people could see that the boy was in danger."
Harambe the gorilla turned 17 a day earlier. He was born in captivity in a small zoo in Brownsville, Texas. A man won a contest to name him and chose a Swahili word which means “coming together.”
Harambe was transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2014.