These are the parents of the four-year-old who fell 15 feet into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo resulting in the deal of Harmbe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla.
Seen for the first time on the web since the incident is 32-year-old Michelle Gregg and 36-year-old Deonne Dickerson. The couple have four children together, including the boy who climbed into the exhibit.
Dickerson has an extensive criminal history, including criminal charges for burglary, illegal firearms, drug trafficking, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and kidnapping.
In 2006, he was convicted of felony drug trafficking and sentenced to one year in prison.
Since that time, he appears to have turned his life around, with pictures on his Facebook page showing him to be a hard-working, very proud father of four.
But in numerous pictures posted on Dickerson’s Facebook site in recent years he appears to have turned his life around to become the proud father of four.
Originally from Atlanta, Dickerson went to Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio and now works as a sorter at a Cincinnati industrial equipment supplier. Gregg is the administrator at a Cincinnati pre-school.
She has been the target of sharp criticism and outright internet vitriol following her son’s tumble into the exhibit that lead zoo staff to kill Harambe, who seems to be protecting the child in video of the incident.
Despite the social media outrage, which includes multiple petitions to have Gregg prosecuted, a spokesman for the family said they had no plans to comment.
“I do think there’s a degree of responsibility they have to be held to,” said Kate Villanueva, a mother of two children from Erlanger, Kentucky, who started the ‘Justice for Harambe’ page. “You have to be watching your children at all times.”
So far, more than 125,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the couple to be “held accountable for their actions of not supervising their child”.
Captured on cell phone video, the incident has sparked outrage over the “senseless” death of a beloved primate, with many placing the blame squarely on the child’s parents.
Michelle Gregg, the mother of the boy, posted a message on Facebook saying: “I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one. For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.
“My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes… no broken bones or internal injuries. As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”
Public outcry has lead a vigil for Harambe to also become a rallying point for those hoping prosecutors will file charges against the boy’s parents.
The family released a statement on Sunday saying they had taken their boy home.
It read: ‘We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff.
‘We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time.’
Director Thane Maynard supported the zoo’s dangerous animal response team for their decision to put down the gorilla.
“They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life,” Maynard said.