Police Search Car, Phones of Zoo Tiger Attack Victims for Evidence Animal was Provoked

San Francisco police searched the car and cell phones of two brothers mauled by a zoo tiger, but haven't said if they found any evidence that the young men provoked the animal, which also killed their friend.

Sgt. Neville Gittens, a police spokesman, said Wednesday that officers were executing a search warrant, but that they would not announce their findings immediately because the investigation remains open.

As police looked through the phones and car belonging to Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 24, the city attorney's office and San Francisco Zoo officials went to Santa Clara Superior Court to gain their own access.

Judge Socrates Manoukian said he would not announce any decisions until Friday.

Attorneys for the city and the zoo say they need to conduct their own inspection of the items to prepare a defense against expected civil lawsuits over the Dec. 25 tiger attack, which killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and severely injured the Dhaliwals before police killed the animal.

Zoo officials have acknowledged that the wall separating the big cats from the public is only 12 1/2 feet tall — 4 feet lower than the recommended minimum.

The city and the zoo contend in court documents that the car and phones may contain evidence that the young men from San Jose drank, used drugs and taunted the tiger the night of the attacks.

"We know that something happened out there in the zoo that motivated this tiger," Deputy City Attorney Sean Connolly told reporters outside the courthouse.

A lawyer for the brothers called the city's attempt to examine his clients' personal property "unlawful."

"They didn't commit any crimes, and they didn't do anything to get those tigers to jump out," said Shepard Kopp, who is representing the Dhaliwals along with Mark Geragos. "There's nothing on those phones that's going to show these guys taunted or provoked this tiger in any way."

The phones and the car have been in San Francisco police custody since the night of the attacks pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, though the department has given little indication that it believes the young men did anything wrong. Police investigators have previously said the car contained an empty vodka bottle.

The search warrant issued Tuesday also allows them to examine the contents of the phones. The city attorney's office has argued that the phones may include photos, text messages and call logs that could help them reconstruct the night of the attacks.