POLICE are investigating the parents of a three-year-old boy who forced zoo keepers to shoot dead an endangered gorilla after he fell into its cage.
Little Isiah Gregg fell 15ft into the silver back gorilla Harambe's pen after somehow managing to climb through a fence while visiting the zoo with his mother Michelle and her partner Deonne Dickerson, 37.
They say they are "thankful" to the zoo chiefs who shot down the 400lb animal - but now Ohio Cops are probing what happened in the moments leading up to the gorilla's tragic death.
Isiah's family released a statement today thanking their supporters - despite a worldwide public backlash against them.
They urged people to donate money in Harambe's name.
The statement said: "Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well.
"We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child.
"We are also very appreciative for the expressions of concern and support that have been sent to us.
"Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept. If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the
Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name."
It follows confirmation that the Cincinnati Police Department will investigate the parents.
Spokesman Tiffaney Hardy told The New York Post: "The investigation is regarding the action of parents and family that led up to the incident and is not related to zoo operations.
"We’re looking into the incidents that led up to the incident."
Since then the 32-year-old mum-of-four has become the victim of online abuse from animal lovers who claim Harambe was trying to protect young Isaiah when he was "murdered".
Almost 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for "justice for Harambe" after hitting out at zoo chiefs over their decision to kill Harambe.
One online troll said: "How about blaming the f*****g numb-nut parents. Shoot them not the Gorilla."
Another tweeted: "Sad thing is it looked like #Harambe was protecting the kid more than the parent was. #CincinnatiZoo".
Someone else added: "So lazy parents can't control their wild kids and a beautiful endangered animal gets shot and killed because of it? #Harambe #RIPHarambe"
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Pictured: Parents whose four-year-old son climbed into gorilla enclosure forcing zookeepers to shoot the animal
GENTLE GIANT New footage clearly shows gorilla HOLDING HANDS with boy moments before he was shot dead by zookeepers
It's after new footage emerged of the 400lb animal standing guard over the boy in the corner of the moat, with the pair even appearing to be holding hands.
Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters today said in a statement: "The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department.
"Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges.
"When the investigation and review are complete, we will update the media."
Yesterday Michelle Gregg took to Facebook to defend her actions while enjoying a family day out at Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday saying "accidents can happen."
She said: "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."
But her message didn't change the minds of thousands of people across the world who blame her for Harambe's death.
They say she should be held accountable for "neglecting" her son.
Even controversial columnist Katie Hopkins waded into the debate when she tweeted: "Having seen the state of the parents who let their son in a gorilla pen, #Harambe could have done mankind a favour..if we hadn't shot him."
Although some animal lovers directed their hate at the wrong woman.
Michelle Gregg from Weston, Ohio — who shares the same name as Isaiah's mum — has suffered hateful messages online.
Since Harambe's death on Saturday, she has been told she is a bad mother and should have her children taken away.
Isaiah's real mother now appears to have shut down her Facebook account to escape the abuse.
A petition on Change.org blaming the boy's parents for the terrifying incident on Saturday states: "We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.
"It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child's injuries and possible trauma.
"We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life."
She added: "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.
Photographs show Michelle – a pre-school administrator - and industrial worker Deonne posing with young Isaiah in a number of family snaps on Facebook.
Ohio cops have said that charges will not be brought against the boy's parents as they continue their investigation into the incident.
More than 250,000 people have signed a petition on change.org calling for the parents to be held account for “neglect”.
The director of Cincinnati Zoo has insisted the horizontal barriers at the gorilla’s enclosure were secure – insisting it they were not at fault.
Thane Maynard said: “We take safety very seriously and we are keenly interested in improvement.
“Any of us could climb over barriers if we choose. As I said, you can lock your car or lock your house, but if someone wants to get in, they can.”
Dramatic new video footage shows the beast picking up the lad and pulling him through water as witnesses — including the boy’s mum — screamed at the Ohio zoo.
The boy’s mum Michelle can be heard shouting: “Mummy’s right here. Isaiah, be calm. Mummy loves you.”
But it was claimed the gorilla, who turned 17 on Friday, was simply trying to protect him.
An Australian animal behaviour expert said the silverback gorilla would have beat his chest if he planned to attack the little boy, reports The Daily Telegraph.
“Usually a child is not a threat,” said Professor Gisela Kaplan, who is the author of Orang-utans in Borneo.
“The silverback would’ve understood that it was a defenceless small child.
"They would not normally attack, they are not an aggressive species (and) in the wild I’m certain the boy wouldn’t have been killed.
“If he was going to attack he would’ve warned him first. The first thing they do is charge and beat their chests and as far as I know that didn’t happen.”
"Trigger-happy" zookeepers were also criticised Jillian Miller, of The Gorilla Organization, for shooting dead 28st Harambe.
She said: "It looks to me like it was protecting the child. Maybe a keeper should have tried to talk to it.”
She also demanded an inquiry, adding: “How on earth was the child allowed to make it into the enclosure?"
Yesterday the man who helped raise Harambe spoke of his grief.
Jerry Stones, 74, said: "An old man can cry too. He was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It's like losing a member of the family.
"I raised him from a baby, he was a sweet cute little guy. He grew up to be a pretty, beautiful male. He was very intelligent. Very, very intelligent.
"His mind was going constantly.
"He was just such a sharp character."
Animal experts say Harambe's family will still be grieving over their loss - and that the entire troop "will be destroyed".
Silverback gorillas usually live to around 50 years of age.
Last night a British man who was saved by a gorilla after falling into its pen 30 years ago says a US zoo was right to kill silverback Harambe after a similar plunge on Saturday.
Levan Merritt was five when he tumbled into the gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo, but was caressed by the beast.
Levan said: “Watching the American video brought it all back. I felt for the boy but also felt for the gorilla.
"Did they have to kill it? Well, he wouldn’t have known his own strength compared to a child, having lived in captivity and never touched a human infant.
“And he does grab the boy and drags him into the water at a terrifying speed. The four-year-old is tiny and could easily have been injured. So they made the correct decision to save the boy’s life.
“In my case, Jambo made sure nothing bad could happen.”
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