Man Who Died At Zoo Told Guard He Was A Lion

Friends And Family Dispute Officials' Claims

DENVER (CBS4) – Family and friends of a man who died after being hit with a stun gun in a confrontation with police at the Denver Zoo say authorities overreacted when reports of trouble came in.

They are holding rallies and vigils as more facts about the case are being made public, including a strange detail that the man told a security guard he was a lion.

Alonzo Ashley, 29, died on Monday after the Denver Zoo says he brutally attacked a security guard and then violently resisted arrest by Denver police officers.

Those close to Ashley told CBS4 Thursday that he had actually been at the zoo three times last week. They are wondering why zoo officials didn’t call an ambulance when reports came in that Ashley was having apparent health issues and instead called police.

“To me my brother was murdered,” Lendell Ashley, Alonzo’s brother said.

Denver Zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart said in a news conference Thursday afternoon that the zoo wants to “provide some clarification” in the case.

She said the trouble started after a zoo staff member reported Ashley was passed out near the elephant exhibit.

A security guard responded and he found Ashley with his head in the water fountain.

“Our security officer approached him and asked if he was okay. He asked this several times and got no response,” Barnhart said.

He then began yelling at his girlfriend, knocking over trash cans and making irrational statements.

“Mr. Ashley claimed several times that he was a lion,” Barnhart said.

Ashley’s girlfriend Elena, who requested that CBS4 not use her last name, said that’s not true.

“No, he never said that he was a lion. What was going on? He just told them to leave him alone and that’s it,” she said.

Zoo security called police and while on the phone Ashley “ran at our officer and was threatening him,” according to the zoo.

“Mr. Ashley chased our security officer, tackled him to the ground and began punching him,” Barnhart said.

Police say that when they arrived Ashley refused to comply with their commands. When they tried to arrest him Ashley attacked both them and zoo security. At one point he allegedly bit an officer.

zoo death Man Who Died At Zoo Told Guard He Was A Lion

An image of the scene from Copter4 (credit: CBS)

Police used a stun gun in their response and Ashley began having convulsions and stopped breathing. CPR was performed, but he died quickly.

“Did your brother have a mental health issue?” CBS4’s Jodi Brooks asked Ashley’s brother.

“No,” Lendell said.

“Did your brother have a drug problem?” Brooks asked.


Police do say drugs and drug paraphernalia were found on Ashley.

“My brother he was big on drinking water, taking vitamins, and exercising,” Lendell said.

The medical examiner’s office has said the cause and manner of death need more investigation. A toxicology report will take about six weeks to complete.

Earlier this week Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said it was a case of “an individual who you can’t get to comply.”

“You can’t just let him walk off for fear he might injure somebody else. So you have to take whatever actions you can to stop the situation,” Jackson said.

Ashley’s family met with the chief of staff for Mayor Michael Hancock earlier this week. On Thursday night they joined friends and held a vigil for him. One sign a woman at the vigil was holding stated “I’m sick and tired of Pigs killing our BLACK MEN … you’ve been warned I AM A LIONESS.”

Friends and family plan to hold a rally at the zoo on Friday afternoon.

  • RC

    Must have been all that water, vitamins, and exercising that caused him to act so irrational.

  • q

    Dont act up and obey the police and it would not have happen. Shame on these people pretending he did nothing wrong. One more waiste down, whos next?

  • Hilary Laufle Osborne

    I think we should hold conclusions until the toxicology report comes out.

  • Laurie

    We were at the Denver Zoo on vacation on Monday 7-18-11. At around 5:00 we saw a man chasing a Zoo guard at full pace. At first I thought the two men were horsing around but then it changed. The suspect finally caught the zoo employee, threw him down and started punching his head over and over and over. The zoo employee was yelling call 911. I screamed help, help. Men came running. The suspect was screaming “The Lord made me do it and something about a lion”. He finally quit beating the zoo employee when another man came to his rescue. The zoo employee got on his phone, was disoriented when calling for help.We all described the suspect to him while he was on the phone. The suspect went around the corner and we continued to watch his whereabouts. The employee kept asking me if he was bleeding. I looked over his face, head and back and saw no blood but there were red marks on his dark skin. I picked up his ripped belly bag (medical bag) and held it until another zoo employee came to his rescue. At that point the zoo and police told us to fill out an incident report, which we did.

  • Nate

    If you obey police commands they don’t taze you bro.

    • Bob

      The police were WAY too eager to get the witnesses out of the area. There are a lot of people that did not get interviewed by the police who saw this and were asked to leave. The coverup was underway minutes after they killed him.

      • DigitalBob

        I’m guessing the reason they secured the scene is when a black man, no matter how insane or deranged or dangerous, dies at the hands of ‘da man’ the black folks start rioting. Not a thing to have happen in the midst of white families and kids who decided to take in the zoo without smiking crack or meth and flipping out. The dude was whacked on drugs and out of his mind. Take a memo: do your crack at home, not at the zoo.

  • Laura

    Let’s start here, people: If you don’t cause a scene and start beating people up at the zoo, the police won’t need to be called at all. You can’t keep blaming 100% of everything on the police every time. If this guy was behaving like everyone else at the zoo that day, he might still be alive. I’m looking forward to the toxicology tests, which I bet a week’s pay will show he was on something.

  • MollysDad

    Note to self: when receiving the following fortune cookie at lunch, “It is better to die like the lion, then to live like the pu$$y .” It’s best not to take the fortune literally. I dunno you may want to reach for another fortune cookie at that point?

  • DigitalBob

    I think he escaped from the monkey cage.

  • DigitalBobIsAnIdiot

    DigitalBob, you are a racist idiot, crack knows no colors.

  • AntiLioness

    The woman with the sign is a joke. The police aren’t out to kill black people and they weren’t out to kill this man. If he wouldn’t have done the things he did the police would have never been called, if he would have cooperated with police they never would have tazed him. They used less then lethal force on him to get him contained and it just happened to kill him there was no intent.

    Someone please taze her for being such a closed minded racest.

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