July 13, 2012 (ABC News)
Two powerful, adult chimpanzees escaped a Las Vegas backyard and rampaged through a neighborhood, leaping over backyard walls and pounding on cars before police killed one of the chimps and tranquilized the other.
The Las Vegas neighborhood came to a standstill on Thursday morning when two chimps, each standing more than 5 feet tall and weighing more than 150 pounds, broke free from their backyard cage and began to run wild.
The female chimp, Calamity Jane, was subdued with two tranquilizers. The male chimp, Buddy, was shot by a police officer after he charged the cop. No other people were hurt during the ordeal.
Miguel Guiterrez, caretaker of the two chimps, was there when Buddy was killed and says he would have taken the bullet. “I started screaming at Buddy, ‘Get back, get back! They’re gonna shoot you.’ I wanted to go right with him.” He added, “He was like a human … one of my best friends.”
The chimps escaped shortly before 10 a.m. and were on the loose for about 30 minutes. Another one of the chimps’ caretakers blamed a loose hinge on the door of the cage. The caretakers believe the two chimps repeatedly kicked the concrete wall until the door came loose.
“This was just a little loose,” said caretaker Timmi DeRosa. “There was a hinge there. This was locked, she said. Once they were out, the chimps ran loose as terrified residents ran for cover.
“There were monkeys tearing leaves off my tree,” said homeowner Hannah Stevens. “One of them turned at me and saw me, and I was like, ‘Get out of here.’ And it hoped over the wall. It just swung over the wall.”
Police said the chimps look agitated as they made their way through the neighborhood.
“We have reports of a woman saying the animal is on top of a car, that he was pounding on a police car. And there is varying accounts that the animals were very agitated,” said Metro Officer Marcus Martin.
DeRosa and Lee Watkinson said they bought the chimps from Watkinson’s winnings from a professional poker championship. Before that, Calamity Jane and Buddy had spent a lifetime in captivity.
It’s not illegal in Las Vegas to have exotic animals in a home as long as homeowners have the correct permits. A spokesperson for Clark County told The Associated Press that the owners had all the proper permits for keeping exotic animals on the property and outside Las Vegas city limits, but that there would be an investigation into this mishap.
This isn’t the first time the chimps have shown a violent side. “He [Buddy] gets mad if he thinks I’m not paying more attention. Then he’ll grab my hair,” said DeRosa. She also said that Buddy had taken his head and thrown him against the concrete.
Chimps have been known to attack people before. Last week, two adult chimpanzees attacked a U.S. student last month after he entered their enclosure at a primate sanctuary in South Africa. Three years ago, a woman was permanently blinded when her nose, lips, eyelids and hands were mauled by a chimp in Connecticut.
Today, Calamity Jane is back in her cage, missing her partner, while the caretakers are missing a member of their family.
“I am tragically sad about Buddy. He was my baby,” said DeRosa. “I loved him so much. I love him more than anything, but I know he’s in a better place.”
“It’s crazy. I don’t know why they would shoot,” David Plunkett, a friend of the chimpanzees’ owners said to ABC News station KTNV. “They didn’t have to shoot the chimp. It wasn’t harming anybody. It came out into the street, so they shot it.”
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metro Police Department told KTNV that the officer who shot Buddy said he believed the chimpanzee needed to be stopped before he crossed Ann Road into a neighborhood filled with a crowd gathered to see what was going on.