Note: WCPO is sharing video from Saturday's event at the zoo so readers and viewers can have an increasingly better understanding of the incident.
CINCINNATI -- A 17-year-old gorilla named Harambe was killed Saturday after it dragged a 3-year-old boy that fell into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Saturday, Zoo Director Thane Maynard said.
The boy was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said, and he was released within a few hours.
District Chief Marc Monahan said firefighters who responded saw the boy "dragged around and banged around pretty violently" by the gorilla.
Personnel from the zoo's dangerous animal response team decided to put down Harambe rather than tranquilize him because the boy was in danger and the tranquilizer would not have taken effect immediately, Maynard said. Two other gorillas in the exhibit were called back inside.
Maynard called it "a life-threatening situation" for the boy. The response team shot Harambe.
The decision to kill Harambe and the boy's ability to get past a barrier and fall into the enclosure drew criticism from many, including the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Witness Bruce Davis said "it was basically the child or the gorilla."
"They chose – a lot of people say poorly, but they didn’t see it. I saw it," Davis said.
Another witness, Tangie Hollifield, said it didn't seem like anybody would be able to get the boy back from the gorilla. She was standing next to the child's family.
“I don’t even know where she was when it happened, but I saw here there after and she was just going, ‘That’s my baby,’” Hollifield said.
It didn’t seem that Harambe was trying to hurt the boy, Hollifield said. But the 400-plus-pound gorilla was “extremely strong,” according to Maynard.
Harambe “just held onto him, and went up the ladder and just threw him,” Hollifield said. “But I don’t think he was hurting him. He was just trying to protect him.”
Community members gathered Monday morning outside the zoo for a vigil, which participants described as in memory and support of everyone involved, emphasizing that the demonstration was not about “pointing fingers”:
The family released the following statement Sunday:
"We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."
WATCH video from a bystander in the player above.
Read more about this story here .
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the child's age, based upon information provided by the zoo. A spokeswoman for the boy's family indicated Monday that he is 3 years old. WCPO regrets this error.