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Special Event

National Zoo Spokesman Holds News Conference on Shooting

Aired April 25, 2000 - 7:21 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take our audience live to Washington, D.C. to Bob Hoage, the National Zoo spokesman, outside the National Zoo regarding yesterday's shooting.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROBERT HOAGE, NATIONAL ZOO SPOKESMAN: ... together, and to work with the Metropolitan Police investigators to try to figure out exactly what happened. We hope the zoo will be open tomorrow.

I would like to say that the African-American family celebration is a tradition -- it's a community tradition that has been going on for over 100 years. It started back in the 1890s when folks would come up Connecticut Avenue on a trolley car and -- with their Easter bonnets and their baskets and come into the zoo to roll Easter eggs and socialize. That went on for 100 years.

In 1992, eight years ago, the National Zoo made it an official celebration, and we arranged a number of activities. We had "meet a keeper," talk to keepers about their animals. We have educational displays, arts and crafts, Easter egg hunts, musical performances and dances, dancing performers here at the zoo. It was a wonderful, happy family occasion, has been for decades. So it's a tragedy and our hearts go out to the victims and their families.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about reports that -- of how this got started, perhaps a fight inside the zoo? And did zoo police actually arrest anyone at that point?

HOAGE: Details about the investigation are being handled by the Metropolitan Police Department. I can't speak to any of those details right now. The investigation's still under way.

I can talk about the celebration and how wonderful it's been for the last 105 or so years, though.

QUESTION: What will you say to families who now might be afraid -- to children who might be afraid to come to the zoo?

HOAGE: I've worked at the zoo for 20 years and nothing like this has ever happened. I've studied this National Zoo's history and nothing like this has happened in 111 years, and hopefully it will never happen again.

QUESTION: Bob, could you talk about some of the security measures that may be looked at now?

HOAGE: There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle as to what happened. We're still trying to figure out exactly what transpired and how things developed. That's part of the ongoing investigation of Metropolitan Police Department. So it would be premature to say anything about that.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE)

HOAGE: I have no information on that.

QUESTION: Bob, can you talk about the National Zoo a little bit as a Washington icon, how -- if you know -- how many visitors come every year, and how it fits into the scheme of recognized zoos around the country?

HOAGE: Well, the National Zoo is one of foremost zoos in the country. We're one of the very few free zoos. You pay nothing to enter the National Zoo, and we're very happy about that. And about 3 million people come to the zoo every year. It's one of the most popular attractions in Washington. They come for a good time. It's a fun day to come with the kids and the family. And it's very popular.

QUESTION: You have you're own police department, correct? How many people on that force...?

LIN: You were listening to Bob Hoage, the spokesperson for the National Zoo, emphasizing that in the zoo's -- in his -- certainly, in his 20 years at the zoo, nothing like this has ever happened: seven people shot yesterday as the zoo was closing. No arrests yet have been made. They are still searching for the gunman.

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