SAN FRANCISCO – Personal property seized from the victims of a tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo may contain evidence that they taunted the animal, provoking it to escape its pen, the city attorney's office argued in court documents.
City officials believe that cell phones, clothing and the car belonging to the three victims could offer proof that they were intoxicated and threw objects into the tiger enclosure shortly before the maulings, according to documents filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court.
Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, was killed in the Dec. 25 attack, and his friends — brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, and Paul Dhaliwal, 19 — were severely injured.
A hearing was scheduled for Friday to determine whether the city will be allowed to inspect the property.
"In particular, a large bottle of alcohol was observed inside the car along with apparent evidence of drug use," the documents said.
Proof that the victims provoked the tiger could be used to defend the city in any legal action against the zoo, the city attorney's office argued.
The documents do not elaborate on the apparent evidence of drug use or what items in the car may be linked to objects found in the tiger's pen.
An attorney for the Dhaliwal brothers has insisted that the victims did not taunt the 250-pound Siberian tiger, which zoo officials and experts believe leaped or climbed out of its enclosure.
Sousa's mother, Marilza, told the San Jose Mercury News that she spoke with Paul Dhaliwal and that he denied any taunting. The brothers have never spoken publicly about the incident.
Zoo officials were expected to appear Friday at City Hall for a hearing by the Recreation and Parks Department Commission to examine what happened the day of the attack and how to improve zoo safety.
"There needs to be a narrative that everyone understands to make sure this never happens again," Mayor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
Newsom said he has asked zoo administrators to tell him the truth about any inaccuracies previously reported, such as the zoo's erroneous initial reports about the height of the tiger enclosure's wall, which is 4 feet lower than nationally recommended standards.
"I have every expectation that zoo management has been forthright and honest," he said.