CINCINNATI • Amid an uproar over the shooting of a gorilla that dragged around a boy who had slipped into a zoo enclosure, police say they are investigating the actions of the child's family.
The shooting last Saturday that killed the teenage gorilla Harambe prompted a chorus of online criticism, vigils for the animal, complaints by animal rights activists and petitions blaming the boy's mother.
Ms Julie Wilson, a spokesman for the local prosecutor's office, said on Tuesday that the matter had been referred to the Cincinnati Police Department for investigation.
"At this point, everybody is just looking into it to see what's going on," she said. "I can't tell you that anyone will be charged with anything."
A police statement released later said the department was investigating "the actions of the parents/ family that led up to the incident" but was not focusing on "the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo, which is under the purview of the US Department of Agriculture".
An animal rights group said on Tuesday that it had filed a negligence complaint against the zoo with the Agriculture Department.
Witnesses said the child had expressed a desire to get into the enclosure and climbed over a 1m barrier, falling 4.6m into a moat.
Zookeepers shot dead the 17-year-old Western lowland silverback after it violently dragged and tossed the child, officials said.
The boy, aged three, according to officials correcting earlier reports that he was four, was hurt, although not severely, and was taken to hospital and released last Saturday night.
Mr Thane Maynard, the zoo's director, has forcefully rejected criticism of the decision to kill the gorilla instead of using a tranquilliser dart. He said on Monday that the dart could have caused the animal to become even more agitated.
The Mail Online on Tuesday identified the boy's parents as Ms Michelle Gregg and Mr Deonne Dickerson, and their son as Isiah.
It also revealed that the boy's father has a criminal history, with offences including burglary, firearms offences, drug trafficking, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and kidnap.
In 2006, he was sentenced to one year in jail for a drug trafficking conviction, but postings on his Facebook page suggest he has turned his life around and is a proud father of four. Ms Gregg works as a pre-school administrator.
A statement from the boy's family, released through a public relations company, said: "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."
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS