Father who brought child into elephant enclosure a no-show for sentencing


SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – The father who brought his then-2-year-old daughter into an elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo in 2021 did not show up for sentencing Thursday, officials said.

The incident took place March 19, 2021. Since then, the father, Jose Navarrete, has pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges.

San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Eric Bodnar said Navarrete now has two options: He can turn himself in by going to court and scheduling a new sentencing date, or he can be arrested and extradited to the county jail.

Not showing up to court Thursday could also alter his sentence.

“The judge could technically impose custody, but that’s going to be up to the judge at the next hearing, assuming he shows up on calendar sometime in the future,” Bodnar said.

Navarrete pleaded guilty to the felony child endangerment charge after he carried his daughter past barricades and into the elephant enclosure. As they posed for a picture, one of the elephants charged towards them.

In videos shot by other visitors, the dad is seen trying to climb back out, but drops his daughter. He picks her back up and they both escape unharmed. The elephant was also uninjured, according to the zoo.

On Thursday, Navarrete did not show up for sentencing. Bodnar said they believe the father didn’t have transportation and possibly lives in Orange County.

The judge issued a no bail warrant, meaning any agency that stops him can see he has a warrant, arrest him and then extradite him to San Diego County.

Navarrete had originally entered a plea deal, which avoided a possible six-year prison sentence.

“[Assuming] there is no further violations that the court finds, he would do child abuse classes,” Bodnar said. “There will be a protective order for the child in the case, [he will] have to stay away from zoo. And assuming that is all done in 18 months, he would earn a misdemeanor in child abuse.”

KSWB has reached out to the attorney for Navarrete, but had not gotten a response as of Saturday. The zoo was also contacted for information about what changes, if any, they have implemented at the elephant enclosure, but a spokesperson said they “don’t share our security measures.”

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