A fun trip to see some wild animals could have turned deadly after a father carried his 2-year-old daughter into the elephant habitat at the San Diego Zoo because he wanted a photo.
On March 19, Jose Manuel Navarrete, 25, “purposely and illegally trespassed” into the enclosure where Asian and African elephants are kept, zoo spokesman Andrew James said, according to the Associated Press.
Video a bystander captured of the harrowing incident appears to show Navarrete standing with the toddler in his arms and his back to a quickly approaching trumpeting African elephant.
“You hear this woman yelling, ‘Jose, stop! Jose, stop!’” eyewitness Lori Ortale told KSWB-TV.
A second witness, Jake Ortale, noted onlookers told Navarrete to get out of the way, and that’s when the father turned around and saw the animal just in time.
“He runs, throws his baby through the gate and it’s seconds from hitting him,” Ortale said. “He jumps through the gate, falls on the ground and then it roared. The baby starts crying and people were just mad at this guy.”
While the stunt didn’t result in any injuries to the father, daughter or elephant, Navarrete could face serious consequences for encroaching on the fenced-in area.
San Diego police arrested Navarrete and booked him into the county jail for investigation of child endangerment, and his bail was set at $100,000.
He is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.