CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - No charges will be filed against the mother of the boy who dropped into Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla exhibit, leading to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old gorilla, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Monday.
The investigation looked at the parents' actions leading up to the incident - not the operation of the zoo, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
After reviewing the evidence and witnesses statements, as well as a family visit by Job and Family Services, the prosecutor's office declined to file charges.
"None of the witnesses interviewed described the mother as anything but attentive to her children," said Deters.
Deters said the mother was watching the kids and called it believable that a 3-year-old boy can simply "scamper" away from his mother.
"Had she been in the bathroom smoking crack and letting her kids run around the zoo that would be a different story," he said.
The boy climbed the fence, crawled through bushes and dropped into a moat. Over a ten minute period, a male gorilla known as Harambe interacted with the child and dragged him through the water. The Dangerous Animal Response Team shot and killed the 400-pound gorilla with a long rifle after determining the boy's life could be at risk.
Deters said he was taken aback by the people who were angry at this mother and believed she was negligent.
"Any parent who is honest with himself or herself would have to understand how this could happen to even the most attentive parent," Deters said.
For the mother to be charged, she would have had to recklessly create a substantial risk to health or safety of a child. Authorities determined this incident did not meet that criteria.
The family of the boy released a statement in response to the decision:
"The family is very pleased with this decision; it is what we expected. This is one more step in allowing us to put this tragic episode behind us and return to our normal family life. We extend thanks to all of those who have been praying for us and who have supported us through this trying ordeal and praise to God for His mercy and grace."
Fire officials at the scene witnessed the gorilla "violently dragging and throwing the child," according to a release from Cincinnati Fire Department.
Zoo officials said a tranquilizer wouldn't take effect fast enough and the gorilla could become agitated in the meantime, increasing danger to the child.
"This was a tragic accident and a terrible loss for the zoo of their beloved gorilla," Deters said. "However, the zoo did the right thing when they took immediate action to save the life of a young child. A gorilla is a wild animal and, by definition, dangerous and unpredictable."
It was the first breach in Gorilla World's 38 years of existence, according to zoo officials. The exhibit will reopen Tuesday with a higher, reinforced barrier.
Police released 911 tapes and radio traffic last week from the gorilla exhibit incident has shed light on what may have occurred when the 3-year-old old was in the enclosure with the silverback.
"My son fell in with the gorilla," Michelle Gregg, the mother of the child who fell in the exhibit told the 911 dispatcher. "There's a male gorilla standing over him. I need someone to contact the police."
The boy's family has said he is recovering at home after being treated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Since Harambe's death, zoo officials are asking the public for help in redoubling its efforts to support gorilla conservation.