Security Tightens for National Zoo's Easter Monday Event

Visitors to the Smithsonian's National Zoo are found tighter security at Easter Monday's popular family event after violence marred the event in past years. 

The zoo hosts the celebration annually on the day after Easter, offering family-friendly activities and live entertainment. But last year, two men were shot just outside the zoo as a group of 30 to 50 people walked along Connecticut Avenue. The victims were shot in the hand and the arm, respectively; their injuries were not life-threatening. 

"We were scared because we do have our kids out here," a visitor told News4.

Jim Battagliese with WTOP-103.5 FM said he heard two shots and saw parents diving to the ground to protect their children.

After several months of review, National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly drafted a new safety plan for the zoo, which may include random bag checks and metal detectors on "high visitation days" such as Easter Monday and Brew at the Zoo.

"We're going to be implementing access control similar to what you'd see at museums, at sporting events around town," Kelly said in February.

Earlier this year, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh met with Kelly and other officials to review the safety plan.

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"Our aim is to keep the zoo open to the public," Cheh said at the time. "I think it will be minimum, but never the less necessary."

The 2014 incident wasn't the first time violence broke out at the Easter Monday celebration.

In 2011, a 14-year-old was stabbed by another teen at the zoo. Mshairi Alkebular, 16, was charged as an adult and received an 82-month sentence after pleading guilty in that stabbing.

In 2000, a 16-year-old shot seven people near the zoo entrance. That teen was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

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