San Diego Zoo

Suspects in Vandalism Incident That Stranded Zoo Ride Passengers Are Marines: USMC

Witnesses told police four men were rocking their gondola back and forth as it carried riders above the San Diego Zoo

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Editor's Note: A previous version of this article reported the Marines were San Diego-based. After publication, a Marine Corps spokesperson confirmed the Marines are stationed at MCAS Yuma but were in San Diego for training.

Four men arrested on felony vandalism charges after an alleged stunt on a San Diego Zoo ride have been identified as Marines assigned to the San Diego-based 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Major Mason Englehart, director of communications for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, confirmed to NBC 7 that the men are Marines assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 (VMFA 225), based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, but have been in San Diego for about a month while training at MCAS Miramar, where the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is based.

San Diego Fire crews rescued passengers on the San Diego Zoo's Skyfari gondola Saturday after they were stuck on the ride for about an hour due to vandalism, officials said. NBC 7's Madison Weil reports.

The men were identified by police and military officials as Sgt. Jacob Dean Bauer, 23, Lance Cpl. Brayden Stone Posey, 20, Cpl. Brandon Gregory Cook, 21, and Lance Cpl. Marquette Alexander Williams, 21. They were arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism, Savage said.

Witnesses claimed the Marines were rocking the Skyfari Aerial Tram gondola they were in back and forth, according to SDPD officer Darius Jamsetjee.

About 100 passengers were on the ride when it was forced to stop. It took a little more than two hours for zoo staff and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews to help them all off.

“I can confirm that there was an incident involving U.S. Marines from 3d MAW that occurred on 29 January at the San Diego Zoo. We are committed to being good neighbors to the San Diego community and will continue to work with local authorities as they continue their investigation. Anyone found in violation of law or directive will be held appropriately accountable,” Englehart wrote in an email to NBC 7, adding, “Their behavior is contrary to our core values, and 3d MAW is conducting a separate investigation into the matter as we take misconduct very seriously.”

Englehart also confirmed the Marines could be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), federal laws that apply to all active-duty military members.

Marissa Florendo, a visitor at the zoo, told NBC 7 Saturday, “They had told everyone to get out of the line and we noticed as we were going through the park that pretty much it was stopped and people were up there for a really long time.”

The four Marines were all released from the San Diego Central Jail at around 5 p.m. Saturday, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Official charges will be announced at their arraignment, which is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2022, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

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