The following communication was distributed to members of the Zoo Neighborhood Council, ANC representatives and community stakeholders.
As you heard from the news reports, the Zoo had a serious security incident during ZooLights last night. I thought you should hear directly from us as to what happened on site. Around 7 p.m., groups of juveniles were throwing firecrackers around Panda Plaza. The noise was such that guests thought it might be gunfire which caused chaos and significant alarm. Zoo Police and Metro Police responded immediately. Additionally, there were confrontations between groups of juveniles.
As you’ve heard me say time and again, safety is our number one priority. Safety for staff, our guests and our animals. Staff on site determined that due to the crowd behavior, ZooLights should close early. They started clearing the Zoo around 8 p.m. In collaboration with Zoo Police, MPD was managing groups of juveniles convened outside of the Zoo on Connecticut Ave. and towards the Metro. Between 8:35 and 9 p.m., two shootings took place injuring two young men in Woodley Park. Metro Police is handling those investigations.
With the support of Smithsonian Office of Protection Services, we are increasing security staff on site starting tonight and will implement screening over the next several days/weeks. Specifically, we will have temporary screening stations in place similar to what we have during high-visitation Spring Break. We have staff putting together a more robust security plan based on historic and projected visitation.
This is our 13th Annual ZooLights. I’m determined that we continue this family-friendly holiday event for our community. We feel confident that our new security measures will deter the handful of individuals who have caused the problems. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please direct them to NZP-CommunityOutreach@si.edu. We’d like our neighbors to be informed and respectfully request that you help us communicate our increased security plans to them.
Thanks for your support during difficult times.
John and Adrienne Mars Director
Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute