Ahead of possible charges, a recap of the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla killing

FILE - This June 20, 2015 file photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 3-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit. The boy's breach of a gorilla exhibit at the zoo, leading authorities to fatally shoot the gorilla to protect the child, has focused attention on zoo enclosures and security. (Jeff McCurry/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via The Cincinatti Enquirer via AP, File)

Harambe is gone but far from forgotten.

More so than the veterans we honored on Memorial Day, Hillary Clinton's searing critiques of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan's long-awaited endorsement of Trump, the murder-suicide that locked down UCLA, and the Texas floods that killed five soldiers, the deceased silverback gorilla has arguably dominated news coverage, social media trends, and conversation this week.

The teen gorilla was killed Saturday after a 3-year-old boy fell into the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Since then, petitioners have called for the child's parents to face negligence and endangerment charges, the safety of the zoo's barriers have come into question, and animal lovers worldwide have mourned the great creature's sudden death.

On Monday, the Hamilton County prosecutor is expected to announce whether the boy's parents will face any charges in the incident. Ahead of that announcement, below is a recap of the controversy surrounding Harambe's killing.

Friday, May 27

Harambe celebrated his 17th and final birthday a day before his death.

He was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas in 1999.

Saturday, May 28

Around 4 p.m., a 3-year-old boy managed to breach the Gorilla World barrier, falling roughly 15 feet into a 1-foot-deep moat. Harambe at first blocks the boy from view, but remains still. Then he drags the boy across the water before pulling him close, almost in a protective manner. He then picks the child up by his pants and once again drags him through the moat, eventually out of view. The boy appears to remain calm and quiet throughout the incident.

Screaming, panicking bystanders captured the moment on camera in a video that has been watched nearly 10 million times in six days.

According to zoo officials, two female gorillas were recalled from the exhibit, but Harambe did not respond. With tranquilization not an option, the facility's Dangerous Animal Response Team had to choose whether to save Harambe's life or the boy's.

"With the child still in the exhibit, tranquilizing the 450-pound gorilla was not an option," Zoo Director Thane Maynard said in a statement. Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse."

He added, "We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger."

A witness told WKRC she heard the child telling his mother he was going to go into the exhibit, and that she told him, "No, you're not," before turning to tend to her other children.

The boy was treated at Children's Hospital Medical Center, where he was released Saturday night.

Sunday, May 29

The hashtag #JusticeForHarambe ignited a social media firestorm.

An overwhelming number of tweets and Facebook and Instagram posts directed blamed at the boy's parents, particularly his mother, saying if she had done a better job of watching her son, he wouldn't have been able to breach the enclosure's barrier.

PETA and other animal rights groups encouraged people to boycott zoos.

The boy's family issued the following statement through a public relations firm:

"We are so thankful to the lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."

Monday, May 30

Maynard, in a press conference, stressed how hard the zoo works to keep its exhibits safe.

"I'm not a big finger pointer. Politicians tend to point fingers. We live in the real world and we make real decisions," he said. "People, kids and others can climb over barriers. We work really hard to make sure our exhibits are safe and our visitors are safe. We have over 1.5 million visitors. That said, people can climb over barriers. That's what happened."

Tuesday, May 31

Defense attorney Hal Arenstein told WKRC police would likely consider child endangerment charges against the boy's parents. However, he doubts charges will be filed.

"The standard for child endangering, which is what everybody is screaming about, is a pretty high standard," he said. "You have to show that the family acted recklessly, rather than negligently. And recklessly is a pretty high standard. It requires a substantial lack of care on the part of the individuals."

Cincinnati Police said they would be reviewing the actions of the boy's parents and family leading up to his falling into the gorilla enclosure.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against the zoo, faulting it for Harambe's death.

Wednesday, June 1

Multiple 911 calls from Saturday's incident were released.

In one call, the boy's mother shouts to the operator, "At the Cincinnati Zoo, my son fell in with the gorillas, there's a male gorilla standing over him. I need someone to contact the zoo, please ... He's dragging my son ... I can't watch this. I cannot."

In another 911 call, a woman frantically tells the dispatcher, "Hurry ... hurry! The gorillas are out. Oh my God."

Also on Wednesday, the Cincinnati Zoo announced it was, in Harambe's honor, "redoubling its efforts to support gorilla conservation and encouraging others to join us."

Thursday, June 2

Cincinnati Police announced they had finished their investigation into the events leading up to the boy's entry into the gorilla exhibit and turned it over to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.

The Cincinnati Zoo said its Gorilla World exhibit would reopen Monday, June 6, this time with a new, 42-inch high barrier that separates the public from the gorilla enclosure. The zoo says although its previous barrier passed inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and had never been breached in its 38-year history, it wants to make sure a similar incident never happens again.

Maynard said in a statement, "It takes hard work and a sustained commitment to excellence to meet AZA accreditation standards. Our exhibit goes above and beyond standard safety requirements, but in light of what happened, we have modified the outer public barrier to make entry even more difficult."

Friday, June 3

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he would hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Monday, during which he is expected to announce whether the boy's parents will face charges in connection with Harambe's death.


Leake reported from Washington. Follow her on Twitter (@NewsyLindsey) and Like her Facebook page.

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