Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SFPD Officers to Receive Medal of Valor at Police Commision Hearing on February 4

On March 18, 2008, in a public ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Newsom commended the men and women of the SFPD and SFFD for their courageous response, on Christmas Eve, 2007, to the tragedy at the San Francisco Zoo. If you recall, a Siberian tiger escaped from its enclosure, killing one man and severely mauling another. As their commanding Captain stated, shortly after the incident, “These officers responded with alacrity to a horrific event (and) risked their lives without qualification.”

SFPD Officers Yukio Oshita, Scott Biggs, Kevin O’Leary and Daniel Kroos are being awarded medals of valor before the Police Commission on February 4. I invite you all to attend.

Here is a summary of the events that occured at the Zoo on the evening of December 25, 2007.

On December 25, 2007, at 5:08 PM, the SFPD was notified that a tiger had escaped from its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo, that a person was injured and bleeding, and, consequently, that the Zoo had been "locked down." Officers Daniel Kroos, Kevin O’Leary, Yukio Oshita, and Scott Biggs responded. They were informed that there could be more than one tiger on the loose. The officers were operating at dusk, in a dimly lit area, and in an environment of general pandemonium.

As paramedics arrived at the Zoo and Lieutenant Michael Favetti took command, Officers Biggs and Oshita encountered a Zoo employee and were shown a man, prone and lifeless, near the tiger exhibit. The victim was bleeding profusely from the neck area and had obviously been mauled by an escaped tiger. The officers were joined by a number of emergency medical personnel and an armed Zoo employee. They were then informed that a tiger had been spotted 100 ft. to the northeast and that there was another victim at the Terrace Café.

Officers Biggs and Oshita led the caravan of paramedics and the Zoo employee to the Terrace Café, where they located the second victim, lying on the ground and bleeding throughout his upper body and head. Next to the victim was an escaped 350 pound Siberian tiger. The victim was crying “Help me, help me.” The officers were 35 yards from the victim and tiger. Officers Daniel Kroos and Kevin O’Leary, who had entered the Zoo from a different entrance, and had been evacuating employees, then arrived on scene in their patrol vehicle.

The tiger looked directly at Officers Oshita and Biggs, then looked at Officers O’Leary and Kroos, and then again looked at Oshita and Biggs, before pouncing on the victim and savagely mauling him about the head. The victim screamed horrifically, whereupon the Zoo employee started yelling, “Kill the tiger, kill the tiger, Oh God kill the tiger.” Officers Biggs and Oshita, much closer to the tiger than the rest, screamed and yelled, trying to distract the tiger. The officers could not fire their weapons at the tiger for fear that the victim would be struck by gunfire.

The tiger stopped its attack, then moved in the direction of Officers Oshita and Biggs, before directing all of its attention at Officer Oshita. The tiger began to advance, in a hastened lope, from a distance of 35 yards. When the tiger got within 20 yards of Officer Oshita, he fired three times, striking the tiger, though it kept advancing. Officer Daniel Kroos, from a distance of 30 yards, but at a different vantage point, fired nine rounds, and Officer Kevin O’Leary, who was near Officer Kroos, fired two more. The tiger had obviously been hit, but continued advancing. Officer Oshita jumped into his radio car and fired two more rounds from inside the vehicle, at which point the tiger veered away from the radio car and fell to the ground. The time was 5:27 PM.