A gay man spending a day at the Memphis Zoo was viciously beaten and threatened with a gun by a group of homophobic assailants this week, in what zoo officials are calling an “isolated incident.”
Twenty-three-year-old Reginald Buckner was visiting the zoo with friends when, he alleged, a pair of women asked if they could use his cell phone. When he said no, Buckner told WMC, the women “just asked all of us were we gay and we were like ‘yeah.”
“They say ‘You know you’re going to hell right?’” Buckner continued. “And I said ‘Wow.’”
According to Buckner, the women were met by a group of men who joined in the homophobic conversation before launching into a brutal physical attack.
“They just started out of nowhere physically assaulting,” Buckner told WMC, adding that at one point one of his assailants flashed a firearm, causing other zoo patrons to panic and flee.
In a statement to WMC, zoo officials attempted to distance themselves from the assault which took place on their property, saying:
This was an isolated incident. The safety of all of our guests is of utmost importance and one of our top priorities. This matter is currently being handled by the Memphis Police Department.
Buckner was reportedly hospitalized with a black eye and bruised back following the attack. Speaking with reporter Jessica Holley, he said he was “disgusted” with the zoo for not preventing his attackers from bringing the gun into the facility in the first place—Holley notes that the zoo does not currently inspect coolers and bags brought onto the grounds.
“Because of the simple fact that they want to search everyone everywhere else,” Buckner asked, “why don’t they want to search at the zoo for weapons?”
I have reached out to the Memphis Zoo to ask whether they plan to review their policy, and will update this story with their response.