Johnny the bear shot and killed after escaping Florida zoo exhibit and attacking zookeeper
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: A bear, who spent almost his entire life in a cage was barbarically shot dead by the workers that cared for him after he escaped an exhibit at a Florida zoo and attacked a zookeeper. The five-year-old North American black bear named Johnny escaped the exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens from a behind-the-scenes area at around 5.00 pm on Wednesday, December 22, when a door to his enclosure was left open.
Johnny "came out of the opened gate and went directly" to the 35-year-old zookeeper, who was then viciously attacked, a police report stated. Seeing the bear running towards them, the frantic zookeeper called out for help. "The help call was heard by another team member close by who made the emergency call to initiate the weapons team," Kelly Rouillard, director of marketing for the zoo, said to News4Jax. The wounded zookeeper was then assisted by other colleagues until help came.
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A witness told police that she and her coworkers began throwing items at the bear to get him away from the zookeeper. The zoo’s lethal weapons team was notified by radio. One member of the lethal weapon team told Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigators that upon his arrival, he witnessed the bear was "actively assaulting" the zookeeper. He said he was waiting for the veterinarian team to get a tranquilizer gun ready but feared for the zookeeper’s life so he made the "executive decision to move in and shoot the bear," the police report said.
The lethal weapons team member fired four rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the bear's head, chest, and back. The wounded bear then ran back to his enclosure where he collapsed and died. Johnny was one of the two bears at the zoo and had been at the attraction since 2017. During the hassle, the wounded bear was rushed to a hospital for treatment with lacerations on her head, back and thighs, although her injuries were not considered life-threatening.
In response to the incident, Jacksonville Zoo officials said in a Facebook post that an emergency call was initiated and the facility's "lethal weapons team responded immediately." "Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed," the statement said. "We will be conducting an ongoing investigation over the coming days and weeks. We do not take this lightly. It is profoundly painful when we have a loss of an animal, especially under the circumstances such as this," the statement added. Johnny’s death is currently being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Captive Wildlife Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.