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Protestors demand boycott of Denver Zoo

9:14 PM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
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Police say Alonzo Ashley attacked several officers and security guards Monday afternoon and died minutes after police hit him with a stun gun. On Friday, about 40 people, including members of Ashley's family, gathered outside the zoo demanding an apology.

They came forward with a written list of demands, including an apology from the zoo and from Denver Police. They also demanded more involvement from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and they want to zoo to completely shut down for a period of mourning.

If that doesn't happen, then they say everyone in the community has no choice but to stage a boycott.

"Somebody was killed in this zoo and the very next day the zoo went back to business as usual. That can't be. If you don't want to close down for a day, for two days, to give us time to grasp all this, then we'll boycott you," community activist Alvertis Simmons said.

Simmons says that is the only solution for a group of demonstrators who gathered outside the zoo to protest Ashley's death, a man they say is an innocent victim of racism and possibly police brutality.

"Why is this a race issue? This is a black man that died at the hands of a white officer," Simmons said. "Even though there was a black command officer that came, at the end of the day, the culture is still the same."

With police officers on hand, zoo officials met face to face with members of Ashley's family.

"The Zoo is very sorry for the loss of your family and your friends. We're sorry for what happened to Mr. Ashley and his passing," Ana Bowie, senior vice president of marketing at the Denver Zoo, said.

Still, the protestors said apologies only go so far.

"It was heartfelt, but action speaks louder than words and we want action," Simmons said.

The protestors are demanding an investigation into the security agency used at the zoo, and demanded that all officers involved in Monday's altercation be placed on immediate administrative leave. At this point, Denver police say all officers involved are on active duty.

"You have to respect the police, but police, you have to respect us too," Simmons said.

At least one zoo visitor who witnessed the incident is backing the story of security guards and Denver police.

Laurie Reid, who was visiting from Florida at the time, says she saw Ashley blatantly attack security and police officers without reason, and without regard to the safety of anyone else around him.

"I'm like, 'Help, help, help!'" she said. "I didn't know what to do. I mean he [the security guard] must have a sore head. He [Ashley] must have got in at least six, 10, eight punches on his head, but it was quick."

Also among the groups list of demands is that Denver Police, zoo officials, and members of the community hold a town hall meeting within the next 10 days to discuss the issue.

On Thursday, the zoo announced that when security responded, Ashley had placed his head under the drinking fountain and was allegedly making bizarre statements. He also claimed he was a lion.

When police responded and Ashley collapsed, officers attempted CPR and he was taken to the hospital. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

Police say drugs and drug paraphernalia were found on Ashley.

Despite an autopsy, investigators have yet to determine Ashley's cause of death.

Police are still looking for witnesses to the incident and are asking them to call 720-913-6050.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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