Officers honored for killing tiger

February 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Police are trained to handle all sorts of emergencies, but not the one they dealt with at the San Francisco zoo a year ago. On Wednesday night four San Francisco police officers were awarded the Gold Medal of Valor for stopping an escaped tiger on Christmas night.

"The victim gave out horrific screams and the zoo employee, who was with the officers, started yelling 'Kill the tiger, kill the tiger, oh my god, kill the tiger," said Captain Paul Chignell, with the San Francisco Police Department.

Their commanding officer described the split second decisions of San Francisco police officers Scott Biggs, Yukio Oshita, Kevin O'Leary and Daniel Kroos.

"Some people were in a full on sprint with their strollers to their cars," said Officer Kevin O'Leary.

"There was no department issued shotguns in either the plain clothed or uncaged unit that we were driving. So we really had no other resources other than our handguns," said Daniel Kroos.

"The tiger directed all of its attention at officer Oshita. The tiger then began to advance," said Captain Chignell.

Officer Oshita, now the prey, fired the first three shots at Tatiana the tiger. She had just escaped her enclosure and killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa. Now she was mauling 22-year-old Paul Daliwahl.

"We see the rounds hitting her chest and the fur moving, kind of like if you blow on cotton or something like that and moved and she flinches and she keeps coming," said Oshito.

"I was thinking holy moly. I hope what we have works," said Kevin O'Leary.

Officer Kroos fired nine rounds and O'Leary squeezed off two more.

"The tiger had obviously been hit, but continued advancing on the officers. So officer Oshita jumped into the police car through an open window," said Captain Chignell.

His partner, Biggs, jumped in on the other side.

"And we kind of for a split second looked at each other, and we realized the window was open," said Oshito.

Oshita quickly fired two shots out the window and fell back waiting for Tatiana to come diving in for him. But she stumbled and fell. Then Biggs put it out of its misery with a single shot to the head.

"We weren't going in to kill a tiger. We were going in to try to save lives," said Scott Biggs.