An Orange County father who entered an elephant enclosure with his 2-year-old daughter at the San Diego Zoo has been sentenced to four years probation.
Jose Manuel Navarrete was arrested in March 2021 on suspicion of child cruelty after zoo officials said he bypassed multiple barriers and “purposely and illegally trespassed” into a habitat containing Asian and African elephants.
“You hear this woman yelling, ‘Jose, stop. Jose, stop!’” a witness told KTLA sister station KSWB at the time. “And he jumps the fence and then he goes through the elephant enclosure, and he’s got his little girl with him who, I don’t know, had to be under 2.”
Video shared to KSWB shows Navarrete flee the enclosure after realizing an elephant is charging toward him and his daughter. Police noted at the time that he dropped the young girl while climbing to safety, then quickly turned back to retrieve her.
Navarrete, already on probation for two other cases in Orange County, did not show up to his initial sentencing in July.
“He did contact my office last court hearing on his inability to come down to San Diego from Orange County,” said his attorney representing him.
Navarrete entered a plea deal for child endangerment, which his attorney told the judge he is remorseful for.
“Mr. Navarrete, I’m not convinced that you are going to fare well on probation given your interview with probation,” said Judge Rachel Cano, who said Navarrete indicated that he, too, was a victim.
“Rest assured, you are not the victim. It was your daughter, and you endangered your daughter,” Judge Cano said.
The judge told Navarrete to take his probation terms seriously.
“If I place you on probation, you are willing to abide by those conditions?” the judge asked.
“Correct,” Navarrete said.
Navarrete was sentenced to four years probation. He has been asked to stay away from the San Diego Zoo.