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Dallas Zoo Dallas Zoo Gorilla Escape

Discussion in 'United States' started by cleusk, 1 Sep 2014.

  1. cleusk

    cleusk Well-Known Member

    26 Jul 2012
    Dallas, Tx USA
    Many people have heard about the gorilla escape at the Dallas Zoo back in 2004. Here are the details of what happened.

    March 18, 2004

    In the late afternoon, fifteen minutes before closing, families enjoying Spring Break were heading home. Keepers were finishing up their daily work. It seemed like a peaceful, normal day at the zoo. All that changed when Jabari the Gorilla escaped from his habitat.

    Despite the sixteen-foot wall topped with electrical wire, Jabari somehow found a way to leave his home. He departed at the southeastern part of the exhibit near the forest aviary. As he walked through the woods, a woman with nine kids saw him one hundred feet away. Beatrice Vallejo froze in her tracks, completely petrified with terror. Jabari didn’t see her and continued his leisurely stroll. The gorilla soon approached the forest aviary and wanted inside. He reached the exit doors then tried to push them open. When the doors refused to budge, he started pounding against them.

    Sherry Mossbarger, a bird researcher, was in a room preparing food for her feathered friends. She heard thunderous booms nearby, followed by screams. Sherry then grabbed her radio and issued a code red.

    Savina Vallejo from Frisco, Texas also heard the banging and screams. She turned around to see what was causing all the racket. To her horror, the gorilla was standing in the distance in front of her. He suddenly ran toward the aviary’s front door, which was forty feet away. Not knowing what the ape was up to, Savina snatched her three-year-old cousin and ran as fast as she could.
    Savina was not the only one who saw Jabari. Several others had spotted the gorilla run toward the entrance. Chaos ensued with people running and screaming everywhere. One woman even dropped her child as she fled the scene. In all this confusion, many families got separated and spent lots of time trying find each other. While all this was going on, Jabari tested the front door and discovered that he didn’t to pound on it. He pushed the door open and entered.

    Enrique DeLeon, Jr. was with his family near the meerkat exhibit when he heard the pounding. He found a clearing and peered down at the aviary to see what was happening.

    Two groups of people stood inside the aviary when Jabari started banging on the exit doors. The first consisted of Keisha Heard and her three-year-old son Rivers. The second was composed of Cheryl Reichert, her three kids, and their eight-year-old neighbor. After he entered the building, Jabari ran back and forth along the main walkway, stopping occasionally to look at the frightened visitors. When he got distracted by something, Cheryl’s group ran to the exit door. The children managed to escape, but the mother was not so lucky. Cheryl tried to shut the door behind her to prevent the ape from pursuing her. In doing so, she managed to slam the door into the gorilla’s face. When Jabari opened the door, the force was so great, it knocked her against the wall. Jabari jumped on top of Cheryl and bit her arm. He lost interest in her and entered the aviary once more.

    Meanwhile, Enrique called 911 on his cell phone and became one of the first emergency callers. As he did so, he watched more terrors unfold.

    Jabari went straight toward the Heard family. Cheryl took the opportunity to escape through the exit door. As she did so, the gorilla knocked down Rivers and bit him on the side. He then tried to pick up the kid by the head using his teeth. His mother came to the rescue and attacked the ape. Jabari stopped what he was doing and attacked Keisha. He bit her on the leg and hit her in the face. He then ran to the other side of the aviary.

    When the gorilla left, Enrique arrived at the scene. He used a utility knife to cut an eighteen-inch opening in the mesh cover. Once the two escaped from the structure, the two families rushed into a nearby barn. When they were all safely inside, first aid was administered. Enrique ripped off one of Keisha’s pant legs and used his shirt as a tourniquet. It was now just a matter of waiting for help to arrive.

    After Sherry Massbarger’s urgent call, the zoo employees began carrying out there assigned tasks. The main objective was directing the three hundred guests to safe areas that could be locked. Mammal curator Ken Kaemerer told the emergency response team to meet at the entrance of the Wilds of Africa nature trail. From there, the members would fan out and help anyone who was injured. Once this was accomplished, they would track down, corner, and tranquilize the gorilla. They would have to wait, however, until the weaponry arrived.

    Dr. Tom Alvarado was in the zoo hospital, preparing the tranquilizer gun himself. The senior veterinarian had to do it alone because he was the only person working at the time. During the process, the gun malfunctioned. Tom tried to fix it, but it remained stubborn and refused to work properly. Having to start over again, Tom managed to prepare one gun and four tranquilizer darts. However, regulations prevented him from leaving without an armed escort. He would have to endure the pain of waiting.

    Upon hearing Sherry’s message, secretary Norma Morales made the official 911 emergency call. The operator notified the appropriate authorities. The fire and rescue department sent three ambulance crews while dispatcher summoned police offers and SWAT members.

    Meanwhile, pandemonium had arrived at the zoo in its fullest form. People were running and screaming in complete panic. Families got split up while others reunited. Many visitors searched frantically for loved ones and others paced as they waited at prearranged meeting spots. Those guest who were visiting Zoo North remained unaware of the current situation and spent their time walking along the pathways. Once they found out about it, they sought sanctuary inside the Prime Meridian or the Bird and Reptile Building. Those who didn’t take the initiative were assisted by the park staff. All the chaos was made worse when the police arrived.

    When the cops came to the scene, they only knew that a rampaging gorilla was on the loose and some people could possibly be trapped. Most had no knowledge of the emergency protocol that the zoo followed. The main goal was to get everyone to safety, then go after the animal. The park sent the police department a video which every officer was required to watch. However, the only ones who ever viewed it was the SWAT team members. Because of this, the cops used their philosophy of taking out the bad guy to save the people.

    The police arrived in sporadic waves. Many of them roamed throughout the park, looking for a staff member to give them the information they needed to hunt down the gorilla. Others didn’t bother with the search and began their crusade to find the criminal. When the cops encountered employees, they became angry when they were told to wait, feeling that the staff was just holding them up. Those officers unable to find someone often gave up and started heading toward the Wilds of Africa. Some of the police completely ignored the zoo staff and their request to meet at a rendezvous point. They just started marching down the entrance tunnel with their handguns drawn, despite warnings that the weapons would be useless against the large ape.

    To make matters worse, there were any supervisors to oversee operations. Deputy Chief eventually arrived when word spread that there was no leadership. The same couldn’t be said about the SWAT team. Deputy Chief Troy McClain heard the call for help, but refused to go the zoo. Instead, he went to an off-duty job. This meant that the SWAT team had no one to guide it.

    During all the self-induced confusion, zoo workers Mike Glover and Alex Vasquez met with cops and paramedics at the rendezvous point. The group planned to treat injured guests then pinpoint Jabari’s location. Ken Kaemmerer directed the men to the perimeter of the escape zone, a hundred-yard stretch of bamboo and brush near the gorilla habitat. They wanted to wait for Tom Alvarado to arrive, but an event occurred that changed their minds.

    Jabari had found his way to the chimpanzee exhibit. The inhabitants were accustomed to human visitors, but not large gorillas. Guided by their cries, the group arrived on the scene behind a chain-link fence. Through the grass that disguised the gate, the men saw Jabari. He was sitting down, peacefully enjoying himself as he watched the chimps through the glass window. He was calm and relaxed with not a care in the world.

    The cops began urging Mike and Alex to kill Jabari while they had the chance. The two men refused because the ape showed no signs of hostility and did not present an immediate threat. Not satisfied with the answer, the police kept pressuring them to fire a short. They continued arguing until the duo told them to shut up or the ape might walk to the gate. The cops seemed on the verge of mutiny, but complied with the request. It didn’t matter because the warning came too late. Jabari noticed the men looking at him and approached the gate. As he tested the padlock, the police became tense, ready to use lethal force if necessary. A sudden noise startled Jabari, and he left the area to investigate what had made the sound. He walked down the trail toward the gorilla habitat.

    After Jabari left, the team decided to take an alternate route and investigate the forest aviary for injured guests. They arrived at the abandoned structure, searched its interior, then covered the surrounding area. The team arrived at a barn and opened the door. The two families emerged from their hiding spot. As they left the confines of the building, Enrique and his wife burst into tears. For them and the victims, the terror was over.

    The same could not be said for the rest of the zoo. There was still the matter of capturing Jabari. While the team was looking for the injured, Tom Alvarado finally showed up at the rendezvous point. He was willing to wait for the rescue force to return, but the patience of the SWAT team had run out. Wanting to rescue Cheryl Reichert’s kids, the men decided to move in. The staff told them that all the children were currently in the administration building, but they were completely ignored. The men entered the nature trail, each armed with a high-caliber rifle.

    When Ken Kaemmerer found out about this latest development, he asked the SWAT team for their location, but got no response. He then proceeded to give them some advice, but received the same feedback. At that time, the two men were walking sown the trail toward the gorilla. They encountered kid shoes, baby carriages, overturned benches, and personal belongings.

    Suddenly, Jabari appeared around the corner with fifteen feet of the officers. Completely taken by surprise, they fled and retreated at full speed. Jabari watched them leave and decided to chase them. When one of the officers saw that the gorilla was gaining ground, he turned around and fired a shot. Jabari fell and rolled on the ground. As he tried to get up, both men shot him. Jabari collapsed on a pair of kid sandals and died.

    After the long ordeal, Cheryl Reichert was treated at Methodist Dallas Medical Center then released. Keisha Heard went to Parkland Hospital and got released as well. Her son Rivers, however, had to stay at Children’s Medical Center. The good news was that he remained in fair condition. Enrique and his family was supposed to go to Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor during the weekend. However, after the day’s events, they decided to scrap that plan. Jabari’s body was buried in a private spot on the zoo grounds.
  2. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member 10+ year member

    3 Jul 2012
    Ontario, Canada
    This story still makes me sad. I grew up with him. Jabari was born in Toronto to Charles and Josephine and he didnt have an easy life. Josephine has always been unable to nurse her babies so all except youngest Johari have been hand reared. Keepers did their best and even brought in fellow hand reared baby Patrick to provide companionship. Jabari and Patrick became best friends but they never really accepted back into the family. They were treated like outsiders so much so the zoo moved them to Dallas at just 5 years old. They never got over their rough start and were totally invested in each other but no other gorillas. Then he meets such an unfortunate end.

    But the story is even more tragic when you think about the impact his death has had on poor Patrick. Dallas tried to give him other friends and then two different female groups. He cant function with them. Dallas had to give up on him and move him to Riverbanks where he could around other bachelors but he will probably never be allowed to be with other gorillas again. He is doomed to a life of loneliness. At least if Jabari had lived they could have been kept together until old age took one.

    And Jabari's death was a blow to the SSP. He was the eldest surviving son of two wild born founders. Charles has 6 surviving offspring, only two of which are currently breeding Jomo and Sekani who are both parents of two. Josephine only has two surviving offspring Jomo and Johari but has two additional grandsons Mbundi and Zwalani from her deceased daughter Tabitha. Had he lived and been able to get along with females he would have a couple of babies himself.