A Massachusetts man accused of attempting to break into the tiger enclosure at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo appeared in court Tuesday.
Matthew Abraham, 24, of Worcester, was arrested Monday and is charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, state police said. He had nothing to say as he left Dorchester District Court on Tuesday after being ordered by a judge to stay away from the zoo.
Around 9 a.m. Monday, state police said they responded to the zoo after security staff detained a man who broke into the zoo by climbing over a gate and attempted to get into the tiger exhibit. The man, later identified as Abraham, did not make it into the enclosure and was not injured.
"This case invovles allegations that the defendant attempted to enter the tiger enclosure at the Franklin Park Zoo," Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Amanda Cascione said in court Tuesday.
Boston EMS was called to the zoo to evaluate Abraham, and determined him to be mentally competent. He refused further medical care.
In court Tuesday, Cascione said there are concerns about Abraham's mental health.
"I do want to raise those to the court," she said. "This is slightly interesting factually and I know that Mr. Abraham made some statements to the news already at this juncture. Some interviews have already been broadcast and there are some things that are concerning from the Commonwealth's perspective."
She did not ask for a competency hearing or exam, and Abraham's attorney said he didn't think that was necessary right now.
According to state police, an investigation revealed that Abraham scaled two or three fences in his attempt to get to the tigers, ignoring several posted signs advising the public to stay out of that area. Police said he also ignored a staff member who attempted to stop him.
When questioned by a trooper as to his motive, Abraham said he's not crazy, he's just very interested in tigers.
Abraham spoke to NBC10 Boston on Monday and denied trying to get into the tiger enclosure.
"No, I didn't try to get in there, I wouldn't get into the tiger," he said standing outside his Worcester home. "That would be a little bit, uh, reckless."
Abraham did confirm to NBC10 Boston that he was at the zoo Monday, and said he does love tigers, but he reiterated that he was not trying to break into the tiger enclosure.
"Well I was going into the zoo to check out the tigers. I didn't try to get in that cage," he said. "When the tiger growled at me I thought I could be in danger however there was a fence between me and the tiger so I wasn’t actually in the enclave with the tiger."
The zoo said in a statement Monday that when Abraham was first seen by staff and approached, he climbed over a gate and quickly exited the area. Efforts to reach zoo management on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Abraham said he's a student and was at the zoo to study tigers, again denying that he ever tried to climb a fence to get in with a wild animal.
"To get in and have a tiger eat me alive? No," Abraham said. "I was trying to view the exhibit the way it was meant to be viewed."
More Massachusetts stories
Yet police disagree, and Abraham's alleged actions have upset some zoo visitors.
“It made us sad. We like this tiger a lot. We come to see her all the time," Andrea Pickarski said.
"People should be more respectful of wildlife and understand rules are in place for a reason," Dorchester resident Kaitlin Noe said.
"There’s only so much that anybody who runs a zoo can do if somebody’s just going to do something like climb into an animal enclosure,” Lucinda Donohue, of Vermont, said.
"Maybe they should put up a sign that says don’t climb into the animal’s habitat,” a little girl said.