DALLAS — A 24-year-old man now linked to an unusual string of crimes that kept the Dallas Zoo on the lookout for missing animals told police that after he swiped two monkeys from their enclosure, he took them onto the city's light rail system to make his getaway, court records show.
Davion Irvin also said he loves animals and that if he's released from jail, he would steal more, the documents said.
Irvin, who remained jailed Tuesday on $25,000 bond, was arrested last week after asking questions at a downtown Dallas aquarium about animals there. He is charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary. An attorney listed for Irvin in court records did not respond to a request for comment.
Irvin told police that on the night of Jan. 29, he waited until dark, jumped a fence to get onto zoo grounds, cut the metal mesh of an enclosure and took the two emperor tamarin monkeys, according to arrest warrant affidavits . He then got on the city's light rail before walking to the vacant home where he said he kept his animals.
Acting on a tip from the public, police found the monkeys named Bella and Finn on Jan. 31, the day after they were discovered missing, at the empty home in Lancaster, a Dallas suburb about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of the zoo. Multiple cats and pigeons were also in the home, in addition to dead feeder fish and fish food that had disappeared from a staff-only area of the zoo earlier in January but wasn't reported stolen at the time, affidavits said.
Irvin has been charged in two of the odd events over a span of several weeks at the zoo and is linked to another, police said. In the taking of the monkeys, Irvin faces one count of burglary and six counts of animal cruelty — three for each monkey. He also faces a burglary charge in relation to the escape of a clouded leopard named Nova, who was discovered missing Jan. 13. A cut was found in her enclosure, and the zoo closed as a search was launched. She was found later that day near her habitat.
Irvin told investigators that he'd wanted to take Nova but that he was only able to pet her before she got on top of her enclosure, an affidavit said.
Police said they've linked Irvin to the cutting of an enclosure for langur monkeys, discovered after Nova went missing, but he hasn't been charged in that. None of the langur monkeys escaped.
In the days leading up to the emperor tamarin monkeys being taken, a man had been raising suspicions at the zoo, asking questions not only about moving and caring for such monkeys, but about the clouded leopard that had escaped, an affidavit said. He was also seen entering staff buildings near the monkeys' enclosure.
After the monkeys were discovered missing Jan. 30, police released a photo and video from the zoo of a man they said they wanted to talk to about the missing monkeys. The man in the images — who police later said was Irvin — prompted the tip that led police to the vacant home where the monkeys were found Jan. 31. An affidavit said the tip came from a caller who said multiple attendees of a church recognized the man from the images as someone who frequented a vacant home owned by the church.
Police arrested Irvin on Thursday a few blocks from The Dallas World Aquarium after he'd been there asking questions about animals at the aquarium and a worker recognized him from news coverage.
Police said have said they are still investigating, but Irvin has not been linked to the suspicious death of an endangered vulture at the zoo in January.
Meanwhile police in Louisiana announced the arrest Tuesday of a 61-year-old man in the case of 12 squirrel monkeys that were discovered missing Jan. 29 from their enclosure at Zoosiana in Broussard, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Baton Rouge. Police said the missing monkeys haven't yet been found. [Copyright 2023 NPR]