9/28 12:07 PM:A 21-year-old homeless man who climbed into the San Francisco’s Zoo’s grizzly bear enclosure on Saturday could face up to a year in county jail after being charged today in San Francisco Superior Court.
Kenneth Herron, who is being held in a county jail psychiatric ward for evaluation, was arraigned in absentia in court this morning.
His attorney pleaded not guilty on his behalf to two misdemeanor charges, one alleging that Herron violated the city’s park code for unlawfully disturbing a wild and dangerous animal–“to wit, bears,” according to prosecutors’ charging document.
Herron is also facing a misdemeanor count of trespassing.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in county jail.
District attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said this morning it is still unclear how Herron got inside the bear exhibit.
Herron was spotted inside the enclosure, which has three 15-foot walls and a fourth with a 4-foot-high barrier and a 13- to 14-foot moat, at about 5 p.m. Saturday.
One of the two bears in the exhibit came up to Herron and sniffed his foot, but zoo staff fired a warning shot that kept the bears from attacking him, zoo officials said.
The bears were taken safely into their night quarters and secured.
Buckelew said Herron has been placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. Bail was set today at $10,000.
He said Herron had been “acting strangely” inside the exhibit.
The zoo employee who found him inside reportedly asked him if he was okay, and Herron never responded, Buckelew said.
Herron has a “violent” criminal history, according to Buckelew, including a conviction for attempting to remove a police officer’s firearm in Sacramento in January 2008, and a warrant out of Union City for criminal threats and brandishing a weapon.
The two bears in the grizzly enclosure are sisters and about 5 or 6 years old, according to zoo officials. The zoo rescued them in 2005 when they were going to be euthanized for raiding ranchers’ barns in Montana.
9/27 11:50 AM: A 21-year-old transient has been identified as the man who climbed into the San Francisco Zoo’s grizzly bear enclosure on Saturday.
At a news conference this morning at the zoo, authorities confirmed Kenneth Herron was the man who somehow got into the exhibit but was not injured, despite coming within inches of one of the bears, according to Bob Jenkins, vice president for the zoo’s Institutional Advancement.
Herron was spotted inside the enclosure by another zoo visitor around 5 p.m., and zoo staff immediately responded to the exhibit area, zoo spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore said.
Herron had somehow made his way into the enclosure that is surrounded by 15-foot walls on three sides, and a 13- to 14-foot moat with a 4-foot high barrier on the fourth side, Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he doesn’t know why Herron climbed into the bears’ enclosure, but said it’s no easy feat to get inside.
“It would be pure speculation on my part as to why he went in the bear enclosure,” he said. “It takes a very concerted effort to get into the facility. You have to be very determined to do that.”
One of the bears came up to Herron and sniffed his foot, but zoo staff fired a warning shot that kept the bears from attacking him, Jenkins said.
The bears were taken safely into their night quarters and secured, Jenkins said, and Herron was taken into police custody and placed under psychiatric evaluation. Herron reportedly has outstanding prior warrants, Jenkins said.
The two bears in the grizzly enclosure are sisters and about 5 or 6 years old, according to Jenkins. The zoo rescued them in 2005 when they were going to be euthanized for raiding ranchers’ barns in Montana.
9/26 10:12 PM: A man who allegedly climbed into the grizzly bear enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo this afternoon has been arrested in connection with misdemeanor trespassing and harassing an animal in captivity, police said tonight.
The 27-year-old man was taken to San Francisco General Hospital for an evaluation after he allegedly scaled a short wall, swam across an 8-foot-wide moat and sat just feet away from some bears at about 5 p.m.
One bear “did get close enough to sniff him and put his paw on him,” San Francisco police Sgt. Wilfred Williams said.
A zoo visitor notified employees, who immediately implemented a “code red” response, according to a statement from zoo spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore.
One worker fired a warning shot to scare off the bears, which were then safely secured inside their dens, Tornatore said.
The man, who was not hurt, was taken into police custody. San Francisco Fire crews also assisted.
Police and zoo officials are investigating the incident. Tornatore has scheduled a press conference for 9 a.m. Sunday at the zoo’s South Gate, off Herbst Road.
9/27 8:06 PM: A 27-year-old man was taken into custody after he climbed into the grizzly bear enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo this afternoon.
A zoo visitor notified employees that the man had scaled a short wall and was crouching behind some bushes inside the grizzly bear enclosure about 5 p.m., San Francisco fire spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.
When zookeepers arrived, the man had already swam across the enclosure’s 8-foot-wide moat, climbed up an embankment and was sitting just feet away from the bears, Talmadge said.
“One bear started to go after him full-stride. He just sat there,” Talmadge said.
Zoo workers immediately implemented a “code red” response, according to a statement from zoo spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore. One worker fired a warning shot into the air to scare off the bears, which were then safely secured inside their dens, Tornatore said.
Firefighters escorted the man, who was not cooperative, out of the enclosure unharmed, Talmadge said. The man was taken into police custody and then to San Francisco General Hospital for further evaluation, she said.
Police and zoo officials are investigating the incident. Tornatore has scheduled a press conference for 9 a.m. Sunday at the Zoo’s South Gate, off Herbst Road.