SAN DIEGO — Video from a witness shows the moment an elephant charged a man and his 2-year-old who got inside an exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.
Zoo officials said the man bypassed multiple barriers around 4:20 p.m. Friday and “purposely and illegally trespassed” into a habitat that includes the zoo’s Asian and African elephants.
In the video, the man is seen holding the child while standing inside the exhibit when a crowd notices the elephant behind him. They start to yell as the elephant picks up its pace and charges toward the man, letting out a fierce roar.
Witnesses told FOX 5 they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They believed it was an African elephant with tusks that charged the man and child.
“You hear this woman yelling, ‘Jose, stop. Jose, stop,’” witness Lori Ortale said. “And he jumps the fence and then he goes through the elephant enclosure, and he’s got his little girl with him who, I don’t know, had to be under 2.”
The video shows the man start to run when he realizes the elephant is behind him. Police said he dropped the girl as he climbed to safety. He ducks under a fence and his daughter ends up on the ground, inches away from the riled elephant.
“We told him to get out and he turned around and he saw it, thankfully, just in time,” witness Jake Ortale said. “He runs, throws his baby through the gate and it’s seconds from hitting him. He jumps through the gate, falls on the ground and then it roared. … The baby starts crying and people were just mad at this guy.”
Police identified the man Saturday as 25-year-old Jose Manuel Navarrete. He was booked into San Diego Central Jail downtown on suspicion of child cruelty.
Navarrete, his daughter and the elephants were all unharmed and the girl went home with her mother, police and zoo officials said.