Shots fired outside Memphis Zoo at end of record-breaking day

UPDATE: The Memphis Zoo has released the following statement following Tuesday's events:

Zoo President Response to Free Tuesday

The Memphis Zoo and our staff appreciate all the thoughtful comments and concerns regarding yesterday's Free Tuesday event. At this time, we are collecting your thoughts and reviewing the event's policies and practices with City officials and Zoo managers.

The Zoo is committed to being a family-friendly place where people can connect with our animals, and Tuesday afternoons should not be an exception to that commitment. Our review of yesterday will help us avoid future guest experiences that are not in line with our high standards.

We sincerely apologize for the inconveniences that our guests and neighbors experienced yesterday. Our highest priority is the safety of our guests and animals, and we want to remain Memphis' premier attraction for families.

Thank you for your thoughts and support.

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Record crowds gave way to a chaotic scene outside the Memphis Zoo late Tuesday evening.

Several police officers were still parked in the lot outside the Memphis Zoo's main entrance Tuesday night after the zoo closed.  Hours earlier, patrons were swept out on what became the zoo's busiest day ever.

"It was 25,314," said Director of Communications Brian Carter.  "The biggest day in zoo history."

Carter told Action News 5 the busy day delivered problems both inside and out.

"We had a couple of fights," said Carter.  "One happened in the parking lot, one in the zoo."

But it was after zoo hours when police said shots were fired near Overton Park's main gate at Poplar and Tucker.  That's where hundreds of young people lingered as police tried to control the crowd.

Officers said it appeared two teens fired shots into the air after leaving the zoo.  At the time, young people were still in the park or across the street at a Circle K convenience store.

"It's an unfortunate way to end a great day at the zoo," said Carter.

Students on Spring Break from Memphis City Schools greatly contributed to the record-breaking crowd inside the zoo and in the park.

"It's ridiculous," said parent Sherita Branch.

She was stunned by reports of shots being fired.

"That's scary," said Branch.  "Especially when you're at working, thinking they're having a good time."

The zoo has no plans of canceling the "free Tuesday" program.  That includes those that fall during Spring Break.  However, changes are on the way.

"How we get people in, how many people we let in, and security measures we take to keep everyone safe," said Carter.

At last check, Memphis Police had made no arrests in connection with the shots being fired.

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