Exotic Animals Escape from Wild Animal Farm

A virtual zoo of wild beasts were set loose after an exotic animal farm owner was found dead and all the animal cages were left open. INSIDE EDITION has the latest.

It's your first look at the man who triggered the mass escape of wild animals that is causing a wave of terror in Ohio.

Now, Thompson is dead, and dozens of wild animals such as Bengal tigers, mountain lions, and other predators he kept on his property are roaming the town of Zainesville, 50 miles from Columbus, Ohio.

Terrified residents called 911.

Caller: "There's animals loose down around this area."

911 Operator: "Yes."

Caller: "I think I just seen one of them. It looked like a jaguar or a wolf or something. As soon as I opened the door it took off."

A local newscast warned residents, "Stay inside. There just might be a lion, a tiger, or a grizzly roaming in your neighborhood."

Schools were ordered closed today as lawmen shot dead many of the animals like a lion. A black bear was also videotaped hunting for food.

Sheriff Matt Lutz said, "We shot four to five cats that were running away from their pens trying to cross property lines. If those cats would have got away, who knows where they would end up. Especially when they start getting hungry."

Famed wildlife expert Jack Hanna, the Director Emeritus of the nearby Columbus Zoo, drove overnight from Pennsylvania to help out.

"I hate this. This is like a nightmare to me. This is like something I can't believe it's happening," said Hanna.

Investigators believe Thompson committed suicide after releasing the wild beasts. He was released from prison only three weeks ago after serving a one-year prison sentence for gun possession. His marriage had also just broken up.

INSIDE EDITION has learned that Thompson bought some of his animals in wild animal auctions. At such auctions, which are legal, our hidden cameras showed hundreds of people shopping for zebras, camels, an 18-foot python, a bobcat, and other animals.

Now, Jack Hanna is hoping this terrifying mass escape may cause people to think twice before they buy an exotic beast.

"There are a couple of auctions in Ohio. They should be shut down," said Hanna.