Police: Tiger attack victim acknowledged drinking, some taunting
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ” Police believe a fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo was in part prompted by the victims provoking the animal, according to court documents.
One of the three victims told the father of the teenager killed in the Christmas Day attack they had been drinking and were yelling and waving at the animal, according to a search warrant affidavit filed late Thursday.
Paul Dhaliwal, 19, insisted the three never threw anything into the tiger’s pen to provoke the cat, the papers said.
Dhaliwal and his brother Kulbir, 24, were severely injured when the tiger crawled up the wall of its enclosure and mauled them. Their friend, 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr., was killed.
Zoo officials have acknowledged the wall surrounding the tiger pen was four feet lower than recommended by the national zoo accrediting organization.
“As a result of this investigation, (police believe) that the tiger may have been taunted/agitated by its eventual victims,” wrote Inspector Valerie Matthews in the affidavit. Police believe that “this factor contributed to the tiger escaping from its enclosure and attacking its victims,” she wrote.
Sousa’s father, Carlos Sousa Sr., said Dhaliwal told him the three stood on a 3-foot-tall metal railing a few feet from the edge of the tiger moat. “When they got down they heard a noise in the bushes, and the tiger was jumping out of the bushes on him (Paul Dhaliwal),” the documents said.
Police found a partial shoe print that matched Paul Dhaliwal’s on top of the railing, Matthews said in the documents.
The affidavit also cites multiple reports to police of people taunting animals at the zoo that day.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for the Dhaliwal brothers, did not immediately return calls for comment. He has repeatedly said they did not provoke the tiger.
Calls to Sousa and his attorney Michael Cardoza also weren’t returned Friday.
Toxicology results for Paul Dhaliwal showed that his blood alcohol level was 0.16 ” twice the legal limit for driving, according to the affidavit. His brother and Sousa also had alcohol in their blood but within the legal limit, Matthews wrote.
All three also had marijuana in their systems, Matthews said. Kulbir Dhaliwal told police the three had smoked pot and each had “a couple shots of vodka” before leaving San Jose for the zoo Dec. 25, the affidavit said.
Police found a small amount of marijuana in Kulbir Dhaliwal’s 2002 BMW, which the victims rode to the zoo, as well as a partially filled bottle of vodka, according to court documents.
Investigators also recovered messages and images from the men’s cell phones.
Zoo spokesman Sam Singer said he had not seen the documents but believed the victims did taunt the animal.
“Those brothers painted a completely different picture to the public and the press,” Singer said. “Now it’s starting to come out that what they said is not true.”
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
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