The Dallas Morning News

Plot to take zoo animals detailed

Records: 24-year-old tells how he took them and how he wants more


The man arrested in connection with a series of incidents at the Dallas Zoo, including cut enclosures and missing animals, told police he plans to return to the zoo and steal again if he’s released from jail, according to arrest warrant affidavits obtained by The Dallas Morning News on Monday.

The newly obtained court records reveal key details about what happened in the mystery at the Dallas Zoo over the last several weeks, which made internatio­nal headlines. Davion Irvin, 24, who was booked into the Dallas County jail Thursday after being spotted at the Dallas World Aquarium, told investigat­ors how he was able to enter the zoo several times — evading security — and also outlined his plans to take additional animals, according to the affidavits.

Irvin, who told police he “loved animals,” faces six charges of animal cruelty and two charges of burglary. His attorney did not return a request for comment.

The first major incident at the zoo was reported Jan. 13 with the disappeara­nce of the clouded leopard named Nova, who was found unharmed hours later. Irvin said he intended to take Nova, “but could only manage to pet it” because she leapt to the top of the enclosure and he was “unable to retrieve it,” the affidavits say.

Zoo officials later discovered cut enclosures for langur monkeys, which were still in their habitat, and then the unusual death of an endangered vulture named Pin. Police said last week Irvin is accused in the langur monkeys case but stated they were still investigat­ing Pin’s death.

Nine days after the vulture’s death, two emperor tamarin

monkeys, Bella and Finn, were taken off zoo grounds, police said. The monkeys were later found, alive, in Lancaster.

Zoo staff previously told police Irvin asked “obscure questions” and was “acting odd” in the days before the monkeys’ disappeara­nce.

The affidavits say he asked, “Where do y’all get the monkeys from and how do y’all shift them around?” He also asked similar questions about the zoo’s tigers, according to the affidavits.

On Jan. 29, a zookeeper said Irvin asked, “How do you catch the birds and where do they go at night?” and was seen writing informatio­n on tissue paper. Of the emperor tamarin monkeys, he asked a zookeeper, “Where can [I] get one, and how do y’all get them in at night?”

Near the exhibit where the clouded leopard and langur monkeys are kept, the affidavits said he asked, “How do you handle them and are they aggressive?” Irvin was then seen entering a staff-only area, and after being asked to leave, was followed around the zoo by an employee until he went home.

Metal mesh was cut

Irvin told police that on the night of Jan. 29, he waited until dark, then jumped a fence on the Clarendon Drive side of the zoo, the affidavit says. He said he then went to the monkey exhibit, “cut the metal mesh, went through the door, cut the enclosure where the monkeys were in and took them,” according to the affidavits. Photograph­s included in the affidavits show a giant square cut into metal mesh.

Irvin said after getting the monkeys out of their enclosure, he took the DART rail and then walked to the vacant home where he “kept his animals,” a court document says.

On Jan. 30, the Dallas Zoo security director supplied police with multiple images of Irvin. Police shared the surveillan­ce images and asked for the public’s help in identifyin­g him, saying he was believed to have informatio­n about the monkeys.

Police received informatio­n from multiple people identifyin­g Irvin and received a tip that he was seen repeatedly at a vacant house in Lancaster on Gerry Way Street, where the monkeys were later found, the affidavits say.

The family that owns the community house — and runs the church next door — previously told The News that they tipped off Dallas police after seeing the surveillan­ce images, and said they recognized the man as someone who had been in the area and visited their church before.

Vacant house break-in

Tonya Thomas, whose father is the pastor of the Family Center Church of God in Christ in Lancaster, said her family suspected unusual activity at the house since just before Christmas. She said there had been a break-in at the house in the recent past, and that animals were also found inside previously. The house, in the 2500 block of Gerry Way Street just south of Wintergree­n Road, is about 20 minutes from the Dallas Zoo.

After the family’s tip, Dallas and Lancaster officers responded to the house on Gerry Way Street and said the door was found unsecured and open, the affidavit says. Police found the two missing emperor tamarin monkeys, as well as four to five cats and 12 pigeons, inside the home, according to the affidavits.

‘Poor condition’

Police described the home to be in “extreme poor condition” with suspected cat feces, building material debris, mold and/or mildew and dead animals — including goldfish that were believed to have been stolen from the zoo. In the specific area where the monkeys were found, police said there were bird feces and feathers, along with wet, moldy pieces of clothing.

There was no access to outside light or air, the affidavits say.

They also found shoes that matched those worn by the man at the zoo in the photo that DPD released, and items that went missing from the staff-only area of the zoo’s otter exhibit — including unreported thefts of “feeder fish, water chemicals, fish flake food and training supplies,” according to the affidavits.

A police spokeswoma­n said detectives believed Irvin was going to commit another crime when he was seen at The Dallas World Aquarium shortly before his arrest.

He remained in the Dallas County jail Monday, with bail set at $25,000.

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