Police: Victim admits taunting tiger

March 28, 2008 11:59:23 AM PDT
There is new information out about the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. It's information about the key questions so many have been asking. Was the tiger taunted in some way? That information is in court documents filed by investigators.

Police obtained a search warrant Tuesday which allowed them to examine the cell phones and car belonging to the Dhaliwal brothers. They're the ones who survived the tiger attack. To get the judge to sign off on that warrant, police had to list the reasons why they needed it. In other words, they had to tell the judge much of what they had uncovered. It's all in the affidavit which was filed Thursday night.

Kulbir Dhaliwal was interviewed at San Francisco General Hospital after the tiger attack. He and his brother, Paul, were being treated for injuries. Their friend, Carlos Sousa, had been mauled to death.

The affidavit says before they went to the zoo, they "ingested a couple of shots of vodka and smoked marijuana at his home in San Jose... but that they were not intoxicated." However, the court document says Kulbir Dhaliwal's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for drunkenness.

The affidavit also describes what reportedly happened at the tiger grotto that tragic night. Sousa's father, Carlos Sr., told investigators Paul Dhaliwal called him later and told him the three men "were waving their hands and yelling at the tiger." He said "the three of them were standing on the railing looking at the tiger... and when they got down they heard a noise in the bushes and the tiger was jumping out of the bushes on him."

Sousa said he asked Dhaliwal if they were dangling their legs or throwing things, taunting the tiger. Sousa says Dhaliwal replied that they did not.

Zoo spokesman, Sam Singer, says the court document supports allegations that the three men provoked the tiger to escape.

"These two brothers were involved in smoking dope, in drinking and some form of taunting. There's objects found in Tatiana's enclosure that don't belong there. This is a far different picture then they painted at first," says Singer.

The objects Singer is talking about were pine cones, sticks, rocks and a steel washer found by police after the attack.

However, attorney Michael Cardoza, who represents the Sousa family, disagrees.

"Don't let Mr. Singer, this spinmaster, divert you off the real issue here, and that's who is responsible for this, and that is the city because no matter what these young men were doing, the city had to house that animal properly," says Cardoza.

Tatiana, the tiger, escaped by jumping over the grotto wall. The zoo found later that the walls were significantly lower than the recommended national standards.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also wants to look at the cell phones and car. Early last week, he asked the court to allow his office to inspect the items. That case was sent to a Santa Clara judge because the brothers live in that county.

On Friday, Judge Socrates Manoukian ruled that the city attorney could examine the cell phones, but not the car.

Deputy City Attorney Sean Connolly says even though police found no incriminating evidence, they still want to look at the phones.

"The standard of proof in a criminal case is significantly higher. The issues in a criminal case are much more narrow than what they are in a civil case, so depending on what information they found, I think that the city would be more interested in pursuing it because there's a broader range of information that we're interested in," says Connolly.

Police through their search warrant found some marijuana and a half empty bottle of vodka in the brothers' car. Again, a police source tells ABC7, they found no incriminating evidence on the cell phones connected to the tiger attack.