Family speaks after witnessing shooting at Montgomery Zoo

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 8:28 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - We reported Sunday about shots fired outside of the Montgomery Zoo.

Zoo officials described the incident as a drive-by shooting between the occupants of two cars.

No one was hurt, and we’re told there was no damage to any zoo property or animals.

We were able to speak with a family who says they were in the parking lot with their children as the shots were fired.

Sunday started off as a normal day for the Williamson family. The couple and their two children enjoy the Montgomery Zoo and visit it often.

This visit is one that will stick with the family forever. As they were walking to the entrance, they heard gunshots.

“I started yelling, ‘Get down! get down!’ I grabbed my wife who was holding our 3-year-old daughter, got them down on the ground. My 4-year-old son was walking next to me. I grabbed him, put him in front and there was nothing there to get behind, so I got between them and that,” said Justin Williamson as he recalled the event.

He said he heard at least 20 shots.

“It was just so many so quick,” he said.

His wife, Kayla Williamson, said she had a difficult time processing what happened.

“After that, I was just in shock for the rest of that day. I was a zombie,” Kayla said.

Montgomery police officials tell us officers responded to the scene within five minutes, but Justin says that he wasn’t pleased with what he saw.

“It was only one patrol car with one officer,” Justin said.

The couple says they expected more after feeling like their lives were in danger in a public place where they thought they would be safe.

"I was just terrified," Kayla said.

Their kids don’t quite understand the seriousness of what happened, but Justin and Kayla are facing tough questions.

“My son said, ‘Daddy why were the bad guys at the zoo?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said ‘I don’t like when bad guys are at the zoo. Are they always going to be at the zoo?’ Now I have to find the words to explain to a 4-year-old that he’s going to be okay,” Justin said.

Now, the family is calling for action.

"I wish people would just speak out like we are. Push the city to press stronger charges for these acts," Justin said.

MPD officials tell us this is an active investigation.

We have also reached out to the Montgomery Zoo and received the following statement:

"The Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum is deeply concerned about what Zoo patrons, both in the parking lot and inside the park, experienced on Sunday, January 26, 2020. The incident happened on the public street in front of the Zoo. There were no injuries to Zoo patrons, animals or staff and no damage to Zoo property. As is protocol to protect visitors, animals and staff the Zoo closed the admission gates for the remainder of the day. Any visitors inside the zoo at the time were allowed to continue their visit if they so wanted.

It is unfortunate that incidents like this happen so close to our facility. The Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum and the City of Montgomery take the safety of our guests, animals, and employees very seriously. Along with on-site security there are strict protocols in place to protect anyone from harm. Those protocols were put into action on Sunday, January 26, 2020 and staff handled the situation with calmness and professionalism.

We believe the Montgomery Police Department’s presence in the area kept the incident from escalating further and appreciate their diligence in working to keep the neighborhood around the Zoo safe.”

We have also reached out to the mayor’s office but have not received an official response from either regarding the incident.

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