January 18, 2008
I can’t believe it
I’m so surprised.
Police: Tiger attack victim was drinking, admitted taunting
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) — One of the three victims of a San Francisco Zoo tiger attack was intoxicated and admitted to yelling and waving at the animal while standing atop the railing of the big cat enclosure, police say in court documents.
Paul Dhaliwal, 19, told the father of Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, who was killed, that the three yelled and waved at the tiger but insisted they never threw anything into its pen to provoke the cat, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle.
“As a result of this investigation, (police believe) that the tiger may have been taunted/agitated by its eventual victims,” according to Inspector Valerie Matthews, who prepared the affidavit. Police believe that “this factor contributed to the tiger escaping from its enclosure and attacking its victims,” she said.
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 papers said Paul Dhaliwal told Sousa that no one was dangling his legs over the enclosure. Authorities believe the tiger leaped or climbed out of the enclosure, which had a wall 4 feet shorter than the recommended minimum.
The affidavit also cites multiple reports of a group of young men taunting animals at the zoo, the Chronicle reported.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for the Dhaliwal brothers, did not immediately return a call late Thursday by The Associated Press for comment. He has repeatedly said they did not taunt the tiger.
Calls to Sousa and Michael Cardoza, an attorney for the Sousa family, also weren’t returned.
Toxicology results for Dhaliwal showed that his blood alcohol level was 0.16 — twice the legal limit for driving, according to the affidavit. His 24-year-old brother Kulbir Dhaliwal 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 that the three had smoked pot and each had “a couple shots of vodka” before leaving San Jose for the zoo on Christmas Day 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 cell phones, but apparently nothing incriminating in connection with the tiger attack, the Chronicle reported.
Sam Singer, a spokesman for the zoo, said he had not seen the documents but believed the victims did taunt the animal, even though they claim they hadn’t.
“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.”