DENVER (CBS4) – A new drinking fountain and misting station near Sheep Mountain at the Denver Zoo is part of a memorial 10 years in the making. On Friday, the zoo unveiled a new area and dedicated it to Alonzo Ashley who died on a hot July day in 2011.
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“Alonzo deserves this and for his name to live on in an empowering light versus a dark stereotype he was put under 10 years ago. He was someone special,” said Ashley Ashley, Alonzo’s sister-in-law.
Alonzo was on a date in 2011 when his family says he was having a heatstroke. Authorities at the time said he was acting strange and attacked a security guard. Denver police were called and tased Alonzo. He died shortly after.
“This memorial is more than water, it’s so much more for us who deeply miss him,” Ashley said.
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For the past decade, activists have been fighting to clear Alonzo’s name and get some kind of memorial inside the zoo. On the anniversary of his death, volunteers would pass out water bottles to help other patrons of the zoo during the hot mile-high summer. A crowd gathered on Friday to watch the new hydration area be unveiled.
“It’s a day of closure, a little bit of accountability, justice, a little bit of weight lifted off our shoulders,” Ashley said.
A renewed push for recognition of the events was met more favorably by new leadership at the zoo. Within a few months, the new area was planned, designed, built, and unveiled.
“The zoo is a special place to our community and we don’t want that ever to go away. If this gesture helps in that way, I’m happy to do it,” said Bert Vescolani, the President and CEO of Denver Zoo.
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“The people that love him, to see he’s being memorialized this way, it means so much,” Ashley said.