A U.S. father is facing child endangerment charges after allegedly breaching an enclosure at the San Diego Zoo with his toddler, only to be chased out of the pen by a big, angry bull elephant.
Police say the man brought the two-year-old girl into the pen so he could get a photo with an elephant last Friday. Zoo officials say the suspect breached multiple barriers and “purposely and illegally trespassed” into the elephant habitat for the photo op, CBS News reports.
Video captured by a witness shows the father standing inside the elephant pen with his toddler held in one arm. He is seen standing with his back to the elephants, seemingly posing for a photo while onlookers watch in disbelief.
“Oh… oh!” the crowd can be heard saying, just before an African bull elephant turns and charges at the pair.
The man runs to the fence and tries to duck under with the girl. He drops her in the process, then gets through to the other side and pulls her through.
The elephant can be heard trumpeting loudly at him during his escape. The animal’s ears are fully opened and pushed forward in a threatening manner.
Jose Manuel Navarrete, 25, was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, San Diego County jail records show. He was being held on $100,000 bail and is slated to be arraigned on March 30.
No one was injured in the close encounter.
Witnesses Jake and Lori Ortale told local station KSWB-TV that they heard someone yell the suspect’s name before he jumped the fence.
“These guys right away were saying, ‘That elephant is going to charge,’ and it did,” Lori recalled.
“We told him to get out, and he turned around and he saw it thankfully just in time,” said Jake Ortale. “He runs, throws his baby through the gate and it’s seconds from hitting him. He jumps through the gate, falls on the ground and then it roared.”
The toddler went home with her mother after the suspect’s arrest, police said.
—With files from The Associated Press
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