Denver Zoo disputes police report that man jumped into exhibit

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DENVER — The Denver Police Department said a man jumped into an exhibit and touched a lion — but officials with the Denver Zoo say that’s not what happened.

Police said Matthew Swearingen, 34, reportedly jumped into the lion exhibit and touched a lion on March 18.

Police said Swearingen was detained by security officers at the zoo after he climbed back out of the exhibit.

However, on Sunday, the zoo issued a statement that told a different story.

According to the zoo, the man climbed a public barrier fence next to a public walkway in the new tiger exhibit, The Edge, but never made it inside an exhibit.

Zoo officials stated the man jumped up and touched a tiger that was sleeping in an overhead catwalk.

“The individual never accessed the exhibit and neither he, nor the tiger, were harmed,” officials said.

Swearingen was cited for criminal trespassing but was not arrested.

“In light of this incident, Denver Zoo is currently evaluating this area to determine if anything additional needs to be done to discourage this illegal behavior from happening again,” zoo officials said.

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