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.
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.