A number of witnesses have spoken out about the killing of Harambe, the 17-year-old male gorilla that was shot to death May 28 after a 4-year-old boy fell into the animal's enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. One witness in particular says in the moment before Harambe was killed, she had a shocking realization.
Tangie Hollifield, a witness to the horrifying scene, said that although she believes the gorilla was "just protecting" the boy, she understands why authorities made the decision to shoot him, and it was what she saw in that moment that made her realize why.
"There was nobody getting that baby back from that gorilla," she told WCPO, according to CNN. "No one was taking him."
Bruce Davis, who was with Hollifield, expressed a similar sentiment.
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"From what we saw, [the child] could have been killed at any second. [Harambe] threw him 10 feet in the air, and I saw him land on his back. It was a mess," he said.
Kimberley Ann Perkins O'Connor was attempting to snap a picture of the gorilla when she heard people screaming and saw that a child had fallen over the barrier into a moat. She described the scene to CNN.
"[Harambe] dragged the child a little further down into the moat and he almost looked like he was helping him, pulled his pants up, stood him up, and then all of the sudden everybody started screaming again, and he pulled him completely out [of the moat]," she said.
The more witnesses screamed, the more aggressive and agitated Harambe seemed to become. It soon became clear that the gorilla was not going to let the boy go.
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"I saw him when he was on top of the habitat, dragging the boy, pulling him underneath him. It was not a good scene," O'Connor recalled. "He literally picked the boy up by his calf and dragged him toward another cave to basically get him out of the view of this crowd that hadn't yet dispersed."
Harambe's death has sparked widespread controversy. A petition calling for the parents of the boy to be held responsible has gained more than 100,000 signatures, according to NBC News.
The animal rights group PETA cast blame on the zoo for failing to properly secure the animal's enclosure and ultimately argued that Harambe shouldn't have been in the zoo to begin with.
"Even under the 'best' circumstances, captivity is never acceptable for gorillas or other primates, and in cases like this, it's even deadly," PETA stated. "This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at."