911 Dispatch records from the Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo reveal a pattern of malfeasance by zoo officials and employees. A pattern that emerged when the two victims, brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, first appeared at the zoo cafe, dazed, bleeding from wounds, and pleading for help.
Not only did zoo employees disbelieve the clearly injured one brother, records show the employees thought the two brothers were “crazy” and chose not to believe them. When the brothers tried to convince them a dangerous animal was on the loose and that their friend, 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr., was critically injured and needed immediate medical attention, zoo employees chitchatted back and forth on walkie-talkies discussing the victim’s mental health and wondered if they were “on drugs.”
According to the 911 Dispatch records, when one of the two brothers called 911 from inside the zoo after a 300 pound Siberian tiger attacked them and a friend, paramedics were not allowed inside to treat the victims until the area was deemed “safe.”
“It’s a matter of life and death!” the young man shouts minutes into the call.
“I understand that, but at the same time we have to make sure the paramedics don’t get chewed out, because if the paramedics get hurt then nobody’s going to help you,” the dispatcher replies.
Seconds later, the man shouts, “My brother’s about to die out here!”
The 911 call came from either Paul or Kulbir Dhaliwal, though it wasn’t immediately clear from the recordings which one.
While paramedics and the police tried to find out what had happened, zoo employees added to the confusion by not believing the two brothers’ “tale,” even though one had obvious scratch and bite wounds. Meanwhile, the tiger was out of its enclosure, stalking them, following the trail of blood from the one brother’s wounds.
From the AP:
An unidentified male zoo employee who was on the opposite side of the tiger’s enclosure from where the three friends were attacked called 911 at 5:05 p.m. to relay a report from a female zoo employee who encountered the frantic brothers outside a snack bar.
“I don’t know if they are on drugs or not,” the woman employee is overheard saying over a colleague’s walkie-talkie. “They are screaming about an animal that has attacked them and there isn’t an animal out. He is talking about a third person, but I don’t see a third person.”
Attempting to translate her remarks to a 911 dispatcher, the man said, “He was saying he was bitten by an animal, but there is no animal escaped so he could just be crazy.”
The brothers had run to the zoo’s cafe for safety, after the tiger, a 300 pound Siberian named Tatiana, had escaped her enclosure and attacked the young men. They watched as the tiger viciously mauled their friend, 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr., who had jumped in to try to save Kulbir, the tiger’s first victim.
From the 911 Dispatch tape:
Zoo personnel dispatch now say there are two males who the zoo [considers] 800 [police code for psychological impairment] . . . But one is in fact bleeding from the back of the head . . . at the Terrace Cafe.
It wasn’t until five minutes into the first 911 call that the zoo employees “recognized” there was in fact, a tiger out among the general populace.
At 5:10 p.m., five minutes after the first 911 call was made, word reaches the male employee that an animal was loose. He starts telling other visitors that they must leave the grounds immediately.
“We have a code one. They say they have a tiger out,” he told the dispatcher.
An attorney for the Dhaliwals stated that it was 30 minutes until after the two brothers first reported the attack that “help arrived.”
Time for 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr. had run out. His lifeless body was found near the entrance of the tiger grotto.
Police shot the tiger as it attempted to attack the other brother, Paul, after it had tracked the two brothers to the zoo cafe.
“Have the tiger blue on blue,” the dispatch read, indicating a code for a potentially dangerous situation for officers. “Have tiger boom boom. . . . Cafe — have tiger, on foot, attacking victim, blu on blu.”
“Stop shooting,” the log read, “have cat, shot cat.”
Rather than take the time to do a thorough investigation of their own, zoo officials promptly pointed the finger of blame squarely at the victims, claiming “something had to have happened” and that, perhaps, the tiger had escaped with their help.
One “expert” proclaimed the tiger couldn’t have gotten out of the zoo enclosure on its own, that the victims could have “put a board across the 15′ foot moat” inside the enclosure. Zoo officials stated the wall was 20′ tall, more than adequate to keep the tiger inside but had to recant the next day when it was revealed the walls of the tiger grotto were well below the standard “accepted” height of 18 foot, instead 12.5 foot tall.
To bolster the “blame the victims” strategy, the zoo’s newly hired crisis-management specialist, Sam Singer, admitted to furthering a highly inflammatory false rumor, that slingshots had been found. On Tuesday, Singer stated he was just “passing along” the slingshot story.
A police spokesman told The Associated Press last week that investigators quickly dismissed the slingshot allegation as inaccurate.
Mark Geragos, the lawyer for the mauled survivors of the tiger attack, lambasted Singer’s tactics as “an abomination” and threatened to sue for defamation.
“To be attacked by a tiger, number one, then to be attacked viciously by false and defamatory stuff is too much,” Geragos said. Source – DBKP
Many families take their children for an outing at the zoo, a place of wonder and discovery. There is an expectation that the zoo has the necessary safeguards in place to protect its visitors. In this instance, not only were those safeguards not in place, i.e., a wall too short to keep a 300 pound Siberian tiger inside its enclosure, but that employees were not adequately trained nor equipped to deal with the consequences when the animal made its escape.
Back in September the same tiger had managed to maim a zookeeper in the feeding area. The zoo spent $250,000 revamping this particular area but neglected to take into consideration the perimeter walls.
When the two young men ran up to the zoo cafe looking for help, for themselves, for their friend, who lay mortally wounded back at the tiger grotto, and to alert the zoo employees that a tiger was out there attacking people, they were met with disbelief and considered to be either crazy or on drugs. It wasn’t until the tiger showed up at the cafe and attacked the other brother, and the body of Carlos Sousa, Jr., was found, was their story taken at face value.
Compounded with the unbelievable tactics of the zoo officials following the attack, a second “attack,” an attack of false rumors and innuendo, reveals a pattern of egregious disrespect for those who visit the zoo. Not only are one’s health and welfare at stake, but also potentially one’s life, in the hands of those who, in the end, chose to blame the victims.