Police: Arrest made in Zoo Boise monkey killing

Police: Arrest made in Zoo Boise monkey killing »Play Video
Boise, Idaho (KBOI) -- Boise Police say they have made an arrest in the case of a monkey that was killed inside Zoo Boise early Saturday morning.

Police say Michael Watkins, 22, of Weiser, has been arrested and booked into the Washington County Jail on charges of felony burglary and felony grand theft.

“I speak for many of us in the police department and the community who were angered and outraged over this senseless crime. The loss of this Patas monkey has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators. Officers spent countless hours this weekend and today tracking and developing leads. As usual, it was a combination of a citizen tip and good police work that led us to the arrest in this case,” said Chief Michael Masterson of the Boise Police Department in a press release.

Masterson says Watkins was arrested by Boise Police in Weiser Monday, and will be brought back to Boise to face charges.

The chief says Watkins did have some injuries but did not release details.

He also says that the second person involved in the case will likely not face charges because that person did not enter the restricted area of the zoo.

Investigators say a baseball cap found at the scene is believed to belong to Watkins.

Police say they are unsure what the motive was for the crime.

Officers were called out to the zoo at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday after security personnel spotted two intruders on Zoo Boise grounds.

The suspects ran off shortly after being discovered. One of the men was outside of the fence while the other was still inside.

While inspecting the grounds, zoo security located a severely injured Patas monkey.

The primate later died from those injuries which an autopsy revealed was blunt force trauma to the head and neck. Investigators believe the animal was beaten. Zoo officials said that all other animals were unharmed and accounted for.

"Everyone at the zoo is just devastated - we care deeply about the animals," said Steve Burns, Zoo Boise director. "To have something like this happen - they take it very hard.

Detectives retrieved blood evidence from the scene of the crime. The blood will be tested to determine whether it belongs to the monkey or the suspect. They also found a hat where the crime occurred and think it may belong to one of the suspects.

"It's very disturbing that someone would intentionally break into the zoo and harm an animal. We're doing all we can to find who did this." said Sgt. Ted Snyder of the Boise Police Department.

A security guard told police officials that he spotted two males, both wearing dark clothing. One was inside the zoo grounds, the other was outside the fence near the primate exhibit.

When the suspects saw the security guard, both ran.

The suspect inside the fence appeared to run into the interior of the zoo.

Additional officers responded and did two searches of the zoo, including a sweep with a thermal-imager, but couldn't find the suspect.

Officers and zoo employees found a Patas monkey lying next to the perimeter fence near the primate exhibit where the suspects were last seen.

Zoo managers immediately got the injured animal medical treatment, however the monkey died a short time later.

A veterinarian determined that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head and neck.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS, or log onto www.343cops.com, or text CRIMES or 274637, subject: Tip236.


Below is a release from the City of Boise on Saturday's events at the zoo:

 

The Zoo Boise community is mourning the loss of a male Patas monkey found today after an early morning break-in.

“Everybody here at the zoo is devastated,” said Zoo Director Steve Burns. “Our staff and volunteers care deeply about the welfare of the animals they tend on a daily basis.”

A necropsy conducted by veterinarian Holly Peters showed that the monkey died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

All the other zoo animals are accounted for and uninjured.

Patas monkeys are fairly large ground-dwelling animals from the plains of Africa. At 2 ½ feet, they typically weigh 35 pounds.

The Primate House is a popular stop for the 325,000 annual visitors to Zoo Boise.   “It’s sad to have to tell kids that one of their favorite animals is gone,” says Burns.

Patas monkeys are rare in zoos but are not endangered in the wild, says Burns. There is one remaining male Patas monkey at Zoo Boise. Both of the animals came to the zoo three years ago from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Bay, Florida.

“Because monkeys are social animals we are concerned about the welfare of the remaining animal,” says Burns. The zoo will explore opportunities to find a replacement or move the remaining animal to another zoo.

Zoo Boise was recently re-accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). To be accredited, Zoo Boise underwent a thorough review to ensure it meets high standards in animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association. 

 “We take safety seriously – for our animals, visitors and staff,” said Burns. Zoo officials are reviewing security protocols.

For more information about Zoo Boise, see www.zooboise.org or call (208) 384-4125.