City and zoo officials discussing future of free days at the Kansas City Zoo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Violence on Free Day at the Zoo could have a lasting effect on future free days according to city officials.

Gunshots ruined what was otherwise a successful Free Day at the Zoo on Tuesday. Now, the main objective of city and zoo officials is to keep people safe and save free days from being eliminated.

“Free days after the events of yesterday will have some major changes coming,” said Kansas City Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff.

RELATED: Cell phone video captures moments when shots were fired at Kansas City Zoo

A cell phone video obtained by FOX 4 showed the chaos outside the zoo after shots were fired in the parking lot just before 4 p.m., as the free day was coming to an end. Police say when it happened there was a crowd of about 600 teens and adults outside the main gate. A 16-year-old with a gun was arrested, but police are not saying if he was the shooter. That teen is in juvenile detention and is being held for questioning in this incident as well as questioning in an armed robbery.

“It’s impossible sometimes to predict where idiots will show up with guns,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

The city has asked the parks department to put a hold on free days until they can come up with a plan to protect public safety.

“Generally Swope Park is a place you avoid, for the most part, but the Zoo brings us out here,” said parent and zoo visitor, Gaines Audo.”I’m not coming to any of the free days. I don’t know if it’s a good idea, you know, something obviously bad happened yesterday.”

“I just think it is a dangerous situation, you know, it has proved to be two years in a row,” said another parent, Samantha Perkins.

The last spring free day was on a Sunday and 27,000 people showed up. To try and limit the number of people, zoo officials changed free day to a week day and 19,000 people showed up, and unfortunately there was still violence.

“The zoo just isn’t big enough; the capacity is such that these crowds of 18-19,000 and above in the twenties-30,000 is just too many people,” said Wisthoff.

Zoo officials will meet with city leaders to try and figure out what needs to be done to save the free days. No solid plan is in place yet, but officials say they know they need to limit the number of people in the zoo but are unsure of how to do it.

“The first priority is keeping your family safe so any time there is a large crowds, there is the opportunity something could happen,” said another parent, Michelle Audo.

One other person was arrested for an outstanding warrant and several other people were arrested for fighting but were released. Some people have tried to link the violence at the zoo to the trouble at the Plaza; however Mayor Sly James vehemently denies the two have any connection. He says they are separate incidents, not the same people involved, not the same place, not the same time and not the same circumstance.

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11 comments

  • Adam

    Keeping families safe means keeping the Ghetto Trash (not only blacks, all colors included) out. Make it so that you can’t come in without parent supervision for 17 and under… anyone older than that is an adult criminally and Maturisticly (I know, wishful thinking). That should help solve the problem.

    Solution #2 – Limit crowds to 18-19,000

  • gary

    racist remarks like the above is a part of KC. City officials blew this one. Let’s face it, the weather was nice and folks have been cooped up with long winters – perfect for a stroll at the zoo. This problem of congregating teenagers is not going to go away in the age of social media. Kids on spring break added to the drama with a large congregation outside the zoo. Where were the cops as these kids congregated ?? The Mayor gets a black eye from this melee as we’ve seen these type of incidents way to often during his administration. 20 officers is NOT enough for a crowd of 20,000 and that was just poor planning. Also the zoo should have a capacity level and zoo officials surely should be in the mix- of any future free day planning. There isn’t much for these kids to do in this town and trying to limit where they can go is not going to work.

    • Adam

      Gary – Are you saying my remarks are racist? Because I said ALL colors included. Ghetto trash is not race specific (seeing how all races, nationalities,etc are in the “ghetto”).

  • notblind

    What’s the common denominator in Bannister area ghost town, the plaza, and the zoo? Exactly people. Sly does such a great job dismissing the actual problem, why, I think we all know why. The elephant in the room isn’t just going to go away unless drastic changes are made. Parents of these degenerative idiots also need to be reprimanded for their children’s actions when in fact they are just turning a blind eye to what is going on. No more gov assistance for over breeding failures.

  • Nik

    I think it should be open for families. Meaning parents with their children under the age of 17. Anybody 18 or older not allowed unless accompanied by a child with the exception of senior citizens. Maybe close the zoo in areas. Like closest to the gate first and so on. That way not everyone is trying to leave at the same time.

    • Lee

      I agree with you on the age 17 and under part but not with anyone over 18 unless accompanied. I think all adults would want to spent time at the zoo with their love ones like wife or girlfriend. Like me, I love spending time watching the animals and I am only 18.

  • obbop

    Certain anti-social behaviors should result in permanent banning from society. Time to buy an isolated island and have the navy patrol and destroy any island-made raft trying to depart. Let the barbarians create their own society… grow their own food, have their own thug society.

    Train the youth regularly what behaviors result in permanent banishment.