One of the zoo's western lowland gorillas, Harambe, was shot and killed after a 4-year-old boy slipped into his enclosure last weekend

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated December 18, 2019 08:42 PM
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Credit: Kimberley O Connor/ViralHog

The family of the 4-year-old boy who fell into the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure last weekend says the child is “doing well” amid backlash and police inquiry into the incident.

“Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well. We continue to praise God for his grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child,” the family said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

A Cincinnati Police Department spokeswoman told PEOPLE on Tuesday that detectives are “looking at the facts and circumstances” that led to the boy plunging into the Gorilla World exhibit. During the terrifying ordeal, which was captured on camera, Harambe, a 17-year-old, 450-pound gorilla, grabbed onto the boy’s hand and dragged him around the enclosure. Zoo officials shot and killed the animal in order to save the boy’s life, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said.

The police spokeswoman told PEOPLE a “thorough review” is underway into the “facts and circumstances that led to this 4-year-old falling into this enclosure.” After the review is concluded, law enforcement authorities will decide whether or not criminal charges should be filed, according to the spokeswoman.

Amid the brewing controversy over Harambe’s death, the child’s family added in their statement that “We are also very appreciative for the expressions of concern and support that have been sent to us.”

“Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept,” the statement continued. “If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name.”

Some are coming to the defense of the child’s mother, Michelle Gregg, including the parent of a child who attends Little Blossoms Academy, where she works as site manager.

“I really feel bad for her and what happened,” the mother – named Airy – told PEOPLE, adding, “All the negativity I see online – that’s not her. She’s not a neglectful woman. She’s caring. It’s not about her not paying attention or not caring. Things happen.”

Another woman, an eyewitness who videotaped the incident at the zoo, told PEOPLE that the gorilla displayed violent behavior toward the child.

“I was frozen in fear, it was too traumatic to be on camera,” Kim O’Connor said. “What you don’t see is the way he pulled the boy up the wall. He was treating the little boy like a Raggedy Ann doll in his grip.”

Nonetheless, animal activists have launched a petition pressing the Cincinnati Zoo to take legal action against Gregg’s family. In addition, zoos across the county are facing increased scrutiny in regard to their safety measures.