San Diego Zoo

Dad Charged with Bringing Toddler into Elephant Habitat at San Diego Zoo a No Show for Sentencing

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A man who allegedly carried his 2-year-old daughter into the San Diego Zoo's elephant habitat last year failed to show up to his sentencing Thursday.

Jose Navarrete is charged with Felony Child Endangerment after entering the elephant enclosure on March 19, 2021, by climbing through multiple barriers while holding his daughter. 

Eyewitnesses described a harrowing situation.

"A lot of people froze and didn’t know really how to take it in, then immediately everyone was pleading with him and then it became frantic and hysterical," Matthew Passiglia said.

A father took his toddler into an elephant habitat at the San Diego Zoo. NBC 7's Lauren Coronado spoke to a man who watched it all unfold.

Navarrete entered into a plea agreement prior to being a no-show for Thursday’s court date.

“Assuming there are no further violations that the court finds, he would have to attend some child abuse classes and there would be a protective order for the child in the case. He would have to stay away from the zoo and assuming that is all done in 18 months, he would earn a misdemeanor of child abuse,” Deputy District Attorney Eric Bodnar said.

Due to Navarrete failing to arrive the plea deal could be altered or voided.

“Right now, he has been charged with and pled to a felony with certain terms at this point the judge could punish him to the full extent of the felony punishment given that he failed to appear,” Bodnar said.

Navarrete’s Attorneys said he did not appear in court because he did not have transportation from Orange County to San Diego.

The Judge issued a no-bail bench warrant due to Navarrete’s absence.

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