Suspect in Dallas Zoo animal thefts allegedly admitted to the crime and says he would do it again, affidavits claim
By Ashley Killough and Ed Lavandera, CNN
The man who faces charges stemming from a string of suspicious activities at the Dallas Zoo allegedly admitted to stealing two tamarin monkeys and trying to steal the clouded snow leopard last month, according to arrest warrant affidavits.
Davion Irvin also told police that he wants to return to the zoo and take more animals if he gets out of jail, the affidavits claim.
Irvin, 24, is currently charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary to a building after Dallas police arrested him last week. He is being held at the Dallas County Jail on $25,000 bond, according to inmate search records. CNN has been unable to determine if Irvin has retained an attorney at this time.
His arrest warrant documents reveal new details about a peculiar case that has gripped the nation’s attention in recent weeks and triggered some concern among zoo staffers.
Although the monkeys were eventually found at an unoccupied home in the Dallas area, their disappearance followed a series of suspicious incidents at the zoo involving a leopard, langur monkeys and a vulture’s death, leading to a hike in security, including more cameras, patrols and overnight staff.
On January 13 during the early morning hours, Irvin allegedly entered the Dallas Zoo when it was closed to the public and intentionally cut the fenced enclosure for the clouded snow leopard, according to the affidavits. Irvin then allegedly entered the habitat to take the leopard, which is valued at $3,500 to $20,000, the documents say.
Irvin allegedly told investigators he petted the leopard, but the 25-pound animal jumped up into the top of its closure, and he wasn’t able to catch the animal. He left the exhibit with the cut still in place, and the leopard escaped, setting off an hours-long pursuit later that morning when zoo officials realized the animal was gone.
After a frantic search and police involvement, the leopard was found on zoo property that afternoon on January 13.
Roughly two weeks later, an unknown suspect cut the exterior fencing to the tamarin monkey exhibit and entered the exhibit through an unlocked door before cutting the cages and taking two monkeys, according to the affidavits. This offense, committed on January 30, was not captured on camera.
In the days leading up to the theft of the monkeys, a person matching Irvin’s description asked zoo personnel specific and “obscure” questions about how to care for the tamarin monkeys and other animals, the affidavits say.
The suspect was also seen entering nonpublic areas around the monkey exhibit that day, according to investigators, and
he was captured on trail cameras eating a bag of chips near the exhibit, according to investigators.
Another animal habitat near the leopard and monkey habitats was also found to be cut, according to the affidavits. Unreported thefts from early January were also brought to the attention of detectives — such as theft of feeder fish, water chemicals, and training supplies from a staff-only area at the otter exhibit.
A tip led authorities to the suspect
Before Irvin was identified and named as a suspect in the case, police had released surveillance footage and a photo of the suspect on January 31.
On that same day, police received a tip from a man whose father is a pastor of a church that owns a vacant house in Lancaster. The tipster said Irvin frequently visited the house, and the pastor provided consent for police to search the premises.
Upon searching, police found the two tamarin monkeys inside the home but no people. Multiple cats and pigeons were also in the home, according to the affidavits, as well as items that went missing from the otter exhibit.
Detectives said the home’s interior was “in extreme poor condition” with dead animals, suspected cat feces, and mold and mildew.
Lancaster is about 15 miles south of Dallas.
While Irvin was not inside the home, police found a pair of Nike shoes that matched the shoes Irvin was wearing in the images captured by zoo cameras, according to the affidavits.
On February 2, Irvin was spotted at the Dallas World Aquarium and asked employees about the monkeys at their location, according to the affidavits. Aquarium employees recognized Irvin from the photo released to the public, and authorities were contacted. Police followed Irvin onto a commuter train and arrested him.
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