Information has emerged that the father of the 4-year-old child who fell into the enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo housing 17-year-old Harambe the gorilla, forcing zoo authorities to shoot and kill the ape, has a lengthy criminal history that includes burglary, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.
— Mark Thorpe (@seawildearth) May 30, 2016
New information about the boy’s father emerged after the shooting death of Harambe, the gorilla sparked a furious controversy, with thousands of animal lovers expressing outrage over the death of the gorilla and placing the blame on the parents of the child.
According to the Daily Mail, Michelle Gregg, 32 and Deonne Dickerson, 36, have four children. Dickerson has a criminal history covering about a decade with filings for crimes such as criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, firearms offenses, burglary, and kidnapping.
He was sentenced to prison in 2006 for drug trafficking.
However, there is evidence from his Facebook page that Dickerson, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, but hails from Atlanta in Georgia, has been making efforts to turn his life around and become a responsible father to his four children and partner.
His recent Facebook postings show he is now employed and taking care of his family.
Dickerson, who attended Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, now works for an industrial equipment supplier in Cincinnati.
His partner, Michelle Gregg, is reportedly an administrator with a pre-school in Cincinnati.
Animal expert says murdered gorilla would not have attacked child… https://t.co/G8a62FluRf
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) May 31, 2016
Seventeen-year-old Harambe was shot and killed by the Cincinnati Zoo dangerous animal response team after the 4-year-old son of Deonne Dickerson and Michelle Gregg slipped between railings and fell more than 12-feet into the gorilla exhibit moat.
Harambe had dragged the boy violently in the moat, possibly in response to screams from the crowd of onlookers, before he was shot. The response team shot and killed the gorilla out of fear that the child’s life was in danger.
Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, was killed a day after his 17th birthday. Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Dickerson and Gregg have received a barrage of criticism on social media, with thousands of incensed animal lovers describing the shooting as “senseless murder” and placing the blame on the couple.
As of now, 324,788 Harambe supporters have signed a petition on Change.org calling for the authorities to investigate the parents for child neglect. A Facebook page, Justice For Harambe, set up hours after news of the killing of the gorilla, has received more than 100,000 likes.
Nearly 100k people sign petition to create a law that would hold parents criminally responsible for Harambe's deathhttps://t.co/lifuc5u9Dm
— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) May 31, 2016
Many critics of the decision to put down Harambe argued the new extended footage that has emerged (see above) shows the gorilla was not attacking the child. The footage shows the gorilla holding the boy’s hands. He also appears to stand guard protectively over the child. Animal lovers argued that the gorilla was confused and disoriented by the screaming from panicked onlookers and thought he was protecting the child when he dragged him roughly in the moat away from the crowd.
While most blamed the parents of the child for the tragic death of the gorilla, some blamed the zoo authorities and questioned the decision to shoot and kill the gorilla. Others, such as Julia Galluci, a primatologist with PETA, blamed the zoo authorities for not ensuring that the enclosure barrier was secure.
“The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident.”
Ian Redmond, a primatologist with the Gorilla Organization, also questioned the decision to shoot the gorilla.
“When gorillas or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them,” Redmond said.
— Complex UK (@complex_uk) May 31, 2016
But some individuals pointed out quickly that what the gorilla had at the time was not a thing, but a fragile human child.
The Cincinnati zoo director, Thane Maynard, defended the decision to shoot and kill the gorilla at a press conference on Monday. Maynard explained that the gorilla’s behavior was erratic, and he added, “The child wasn’t just being endangered, but dragged around by the ankle and hurt.”
It seems that some gorillas make better parents than some people.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) May 29, 2016
If you leave your kid in a car you go to jail, if you let your kid fall into a Gorilla Enclosure u should too! #TeamDl
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) May 30, 2016
He said a tranquilizer would have increased the risk of harm to the child because the gorilla could become agitated before the tranquilizer acts.
According to CNN, Thane Maynard defended the zoo’s decision to kill Harambe, stating, “That child’s life was in danger. People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal. Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.”
He also responded to criticism that the enclosure barriers were not secure, insisting that they met prescribed standards (see video below).
“We’re the ones who took the loss on this,” he continued. “It doesn’t affect anyone as much as the zoo. This is a very big loss to the zoo– not just an emotional loss, but a loss to a key conservation and breeding program.”
The parents of the 4-year-old released a statement on Sunday saying that their son was home from the hospital, and he was doing “just fine” after suffering a concussion and light wounds.
“My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes… no broken bones or internal injuries.”
Humans imprison gorilla. Human enters gorilla prison. Gorilla gets shot dead for being near human. Humanity is a disease.
— daniel (@13forests) May 30, 2016
@CNN it was the best decision that guaranteed the safety of the kid. You really want to risk a human life for a gorilla ? Stop it.
— Danny (@Judge_No_1) May 30, 2016
In a message posted to Facebook on Sunday, she defended herself against criticism.
“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,” she wrote. “Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”
A witness, Deidre Lykins, also defended Gregg, saying she had been watching the child, but he disappeared suddenly, and his mother began calling for him.
“This was an open exhibit,” Lykins said. “Which means the only thing separating you from the gorillas is a 15 foot drop and a moat and some bushes. This mother was not negligent.”
Another witness, Kim O’Connor, had earlier told WLWT that moments before the boy fell into the enclosure, she heard him saying he wanted to get into the moat.
Following media reports that police said the incident was being investigated, and prosecutors could choose to charge the parents, a Cincinnati police spokesperson, Lieutenant Stephen Saunders, said he was not aware that prosecutors were considering charges against the parents.
[Image via Shutterstock]