New York City, NY Prospect Park Zoo Mauling, May 1987


New York (AP) -- Two polar bears killed and partially ate an 11-year-old boy who went with two playmates to their lair for a swim, and police shot to death he half-ton animals as they fought over the remains, authorities said.
"It's too gory, too horrendous to describe," said Mayor Edward I. Koch.
"It's awful, awful. The lower part of the body had been chewed up."
Police initially thought the bears had devoured the other playmates, whose clothes were found inside the fenced-in compound Tuesday night at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Zoo. The boys had returned home safely, police said.
Police needed 20 blasts from four shotguns and six rounds from a .38-caliber pistol to kill the animals, one of which had dragged the boy, JUAN PEREZ, into its lair, said police spokesman Officer Peter O'Donnell.
The boy and two other 11-year-olds had decided to take an after-hour dip in the moat inside the fence, he said.
They took off their clothes, but the two lost their nerve, O'Donnell said. PEREZ then threw everyone's clothes intothe cage, and he and a playmate squeezed through the fence to fetch them, O'Donnell said.
At about that point the bears woke up, O'Donnell said. "The first one comes down and does nothing, just looks at the kids. Then the second one comes down and grabs JUAN and drags him up the rocks into the cave."
Officers responding to a report of screams from the cage had to wait for the groundskeeper to open the zoo's bolted gates, police said.
"They saw two bears actually devouring a child," said First Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Condon. He added that the animals were fighting over the body.
Autopsies done immediately on the bears found remains of only one human, said Dr. Elliot Gross, the city's chief medical examiner. The other children had returned home without clothes nd were brought to police by their parents.
An investigation was to begin today by the Parks Department's inspector general to determine how the children got in and how to prevent such occurrences, said city Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern.
The park closes at 5 p.m. and a sweep of the area had found no one inside the zoo, said Gary Zaar, a Parks Department spokesman. Zarr said the children had either sneaked in after hours or had hidden inside.
Children interviewed after the mauling told reporters it is easy to slip into the park after hours.
Stern said the two animals had been at the zoo for about 30 years without incident but that polar bears in general are vicious. The bear compound is ringed by a 10-foot wrought iron fence and a moat up to 2 feet deep.
One of the bear, Teddy, a 33-year-old male, weighted 1,400 pounds; the other, a 32-year-old female named Lucy, weighed 900 pounds, parks officials said.
In 1985, a 24-year-old zookeeper was fatally mauled by two Siberian tigers at the Bronx Zoo after entering their enclosure without looking to ensure that the animals were not there.
In 1982, a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo killed a man who climbed into the cage. The victim had been ejected from the zoo several times previously for trying to climb into animal cages.

The News Frederick Maryland 1987-05-20


contact me

if you read this can you e mail me? a pearl at wnyc dot org


Hello I am Juans niece I just wanted to know if you know my mom she is the youngest girl her name was Luz

The child is not the victim.

The child is not the victim. The polar bears are the victims

Me and Juan were close back

Me and Juan were close back then. He used to come over my house and play Atari all the time. We once had a fight at the 34th street park but made up soon after. I was with him and Sammy on multiple occasions breaking into the polar bear cage. We used to swim... well, wade in the shallow water. No big deal... or so we thought. We knew the bears were in there but we never saw them. We assumed they were locked up at night. We also regularly jumped the fence at Sunset Park and swam in that pool too. He once jumped in fully dressed with his sneakers and everything. We laughed our asses off. It was just how we entertained ourselves I guess. Harmless fun. Well maybe except for all the stealing we did from the "Now and Later" factory on 4th ave. I remember one time when we broke into Greenwood cemetery with a friend of ours from PS 172 named Anthony. Juan stepped on a nail or something and screamed like a banshee. We were young. Luckily I lived close by on 36th street and my mother took care of it. She wasn't exactly happy with being waken up in the wee hours to tend to an injury. She called Juan's mother and was amazed at how disinterested she seemed in her son's well-being. I'll never forget that... or Juan. If I was with them that night I may not be here today.

Juan Perez Who was the

Juan Perez Who was the victim in the 1987 polar bear attack was in my class, we were both in the same contained classes for behaviorally challenged children. I can remember when first hearing about this incident, it was probably the one and only times i ever payed attention in class. I remember it like it was yesterday. Me and Juan were partners in crime back in those days, he was one of the toughest kids i knew. I remember one morning my big brother punched him as hard as he could right in the gut and Juan just looked at him with a look that said is that all you got?. To be honest I was not a bit surprised that he broke in the zoo and wanted to swim with the polar bears we both always did crazy stuff, fortunately i am still here, unfortunately he is not. R.I.P. Juan!
Marc williamson AKA marc cadreau, Aka paul cadreau.