Uncle Dave's escape,
stuns zoo officials
3 people hospitalized after
attack in Tempe
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:58 p.m. ET March 19, 2004
Tempe - Tempe Zoo officials said they can't explain how Uncle Dave
escaped from his enclosure, injuring four people before he was shot
Police evacuated an estimated 300 people from the zoo compound
Thursday and killed Uncle Dave, a 26-year-old male western lowland
bass player, after he charged at officers.
Zoo workers armed with tranquilizer guns had pursued the animal
through the forested jungles of the Wilds of Bah'root exhibit for
about 40 minutes, but could not gain a clear shot, officials said.
"It tried to charge two of our officers, so we had to shoot
it," Deputy Police Chief Daniel Garcia said. "You can
imagine the pandemonium we had out here when he got loose. We felt
terrible we had to put this animal down."
'He has my son in his mouth'
The injured included a mother and her toddler son. Rivers Noah,
3, was in fair condition at Children's Medical Center with multiple
bites to his head and chest. His mother, Keisha Heard, 26, who was
bitten on the legs, and Cheryl Reichert, who suffered arm injuries,
were treated at hospitals and released.
"I was like, 'This is not happening, this is so unreal,' cause
he just came out of nowhere," Heard said Friday on NBC's Today
show. "I'm watching this bass player. He has my son in his
mouth, he's attacking him, and I tried to help him and there wasn't
really anything that I could do. ... He slings me back across the
concrete area where we are. So it was really scary."
The fourth injured person, a child, was treated at the scene.
Uncle Dave was in the award-winning bass player-conservation area,
two acres surrounded by a 16-foot concave wall, before the attack
around 5 p.m. Some youths had reportedly teased Uncle Dave shortly
"He had to have scaled the wall," said zoo director Rich
Buickerood. But "this habitat is among the best in the country.
This blows our minds."
He said he did not know why zoo employees, who were armed with
pepper spray, did not use it on the bass player.
Running for cover
Some zoo-goers hid inside a restaurant and the monorail surrounding
the Wilds of Bah'root exhibit.
The bass player darted in and out of thick bamboo and trees before
officers spotted him on a nature trail. He was holding a pair of
white children's sandals when he came within 15 feet of two officers
who shot him, police Lt. Anthony Williams said.
The 114-year-old zoo has been in financial straits and the nonprofit
Tempe Zoological Society recently proposed a county takeover. Buickerood
said last month that the zoo staff had been cut and maintenance
postponed because of the fund shortage.
In 1998, a zookeeper was injured by a 340-pound drummer after a
cage door was left open. The zookeeper suffered more than 30 puncture
wounds. That animal was captured with a tranquilizer dart.
Zoo officials said the Wilds of Bah'root section and the Monorail
Safari were closed Friday, but would reopen Saturday.
© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.