- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The director of the National Zoo said Tuesday he intends to continue annual Easter Monday events despite several fights and a teen’s stabbing this year - but not without a major review that includes security improvements and plans to close gates to control overflow crowds.

Zoo director Dennis Kelly made the announcement as D.C. officials charged 16-year-old D.C. resident Mshairi Alkebular in connection with the stabbing of another teen six times during two attacks.

Mshairi, also known as “Swiper,” was charged as an adult Tuesday with two counts of assault with intent to kill while armed.

D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Diana Harris Epps ordered him held without bail during an afternoon hearing.

“I find it very troubling that on such a wonderful, beautiful day … the park is yet again plagued with such horrible activities,” she said.

Mshairi’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 6.

Mr. Kelly said the zoo will conduct a “thorough review of the day.”

“For the past 10 years, we’ve had sufficient security resources, and now we need to re-evaluate for the future,” he said. “My goal is to continue the National Zoo Easter Monday tradition in a way that we can ensure not just a quality experience but to maintain the safety for all visitors that come here.”

Court records show the fight started at about 3:30 p.m. near the Small Mammal House. The victim recognized Mshairi from the Barry Farms neighborhood in Southeast and a fight ensued.

Authorities say Mshairi stabbed the teen twice in the elbow and that members of the zoo’s police department “approached, broke up the fight, and advised the parties to leave the property.”

After exiting the zoo onto Connecticut Avenue, the victim saw the same people who had attacked him earlier and “attempted to evade the subjects.”

The victim reported that Mshairi “again retrieved the knife, and stabbed him four more times in the chest,” before fleeing toward a nearby Metro rail station, court documents say.

The victim was taken to Children’s Hospital where he received treatment for serious and life-threatening injuries.

Mshairi appeared in court in a blue short-sleeve polo shirt and baggy khaki pants.

He said nothing during the arraignment except to acknowledge that anything he said outside of discussion with his attorney could be used against him. His public defender argued that because there were a number of people around during the stabbing, “We can’t be sure about the cause of the injuries.”

Zoo and police officials acknowledge part of the problem Monday was the large crowd, brought out in part by closed public schools and pleasant weather.

Mr. Kelly said security has been adequate in the past but some “extremely popular events” recently and increasing crowds over the years means the zoo must re-examine its capacity issue every day.

“We’re now in a position where we will restrict the rate of flow of visitors into the zoo in order to maintain the highest level of safety,” he said. “That is what we did yesterday.”

Mr. Kelly said he will also work with Smithsonian officials to “upgrade” security services before the summer season.

The Easter Monday event for black families across the region grew out of a grassroots community tradition more than 100 years. In the early 1990s, the zoo and Friends of the National Zoo began to add entertainment and educational activities, according to the zoo.

In 2000, a 16-year-old boy opened fire during the same event at the zoo, injuring seven children.

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