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Man Receives Probation for Entering San Diego Zoo Elephant Area with Toddler


Child endangerment Father
Video shows the suspect after dropping his child while trying to escape the San Diego Zoo elephant enclosure. Photo credit: Screen shot, Good Morning America, via YouTube

A man who carried his toddler daughter into the San Diego Zoo’s elephant habitat was sentenced Thursday to probation, with credit for time served.

Jose Manuel Navarrete, 26, pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment for climbing through multiple barriers to enter an enclosure on March 19, 2021, which San Diego Zoo officials say was home to Asian and African elephants.

According to cellphone footage of the incident, an elephant noticed the intruders and started moving toward them.

As he was trying to climb back out, Navarrete dropped the girl, 2, but picked her up and escaped the enclosure as the elephant trotted toward them.

Navarrete was arrested and the child, who was uninjured, went home with her mother, police said. Zoo officials said the elephants in the enclosure were also unharmed.

Navarrete’s defense attorney, Onell Soto, said in court that his client is “remorseful” and “he knows that he endangered his daughter.”

Among his probation terms was an order to stay away from the San Diego Zoo and abide by a criminal protective order involving his daughter.

– City News Service


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