By NEAL PUTNAM
A man who trespassed into the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo has pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment when he carried his 2-year-old daughter with him inside so he could take a photo.
Jose Manuel Navarrete, 26, faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison, said Deputy District Attorney Eric Bodnar, on April 26.
The child endangerment count is the more serious of the two charges filed against Navarrete after the bizarre March 19, 2021 incident when Navarrete and his daughter went through two barriers and stood not far from the elephants so Navarrete could take a photo of himself and his daughter.
Patrons yelled at him to leave and one elephant began to charge at him. Navarrete then dropped his daughter. He hurriedly picked her up as the elephant moved closer to him and he left the enclosure. San Diego Police arrested him at the zoo after zoo officials called police. The story attracted media attention across the country.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Rachel Cano dismissed one charge of unlawful entry into an animal enclosure at the zoo. She set sentencing for May 26.
Navarrete, of Fullerton, Ca., missed court hearings in Jan., which resulted in an arrest warrant issued by a judge. Navarrete was arrested April 12 by sheriff’s deputies. Bodnar said he did not know the circumstances of his arrest.
Navarrete remains in the central jail on $150,000 bail. He pleaded guilty on April 25 and did not have a preliminary hearing.
— Neal Putnam is a local court reporter.