Dallas Zoo Arrest: Man facing charges in connection to monkey disappearance, leopard escape

Dallas police have arrested a man in connection to the missing monkey case at the Dallas Zoo.

Davion Irvin, 24, was booked into the Dallas Jail on Thursday night.

Tips from the public helped investigators identify Irvin as the man Dallas police wanted to speak to about the missing emperor tamarin monkeys at the Dallas Zoo.

RELATED: Dallas Zoo monkeys found in Lancaster church's community house


Finn and Bella (Source: Dallas Zoo)

Police got a tip that he was at the Dallas World Aquarium on Thursday near animal exhibits.

"[He] certainly met the description. Looked almost exactly like the person that I've seen posted online," said Dallas World Aquarium employee Paula Carlson.

Carlson shadowed Irvin while he was at the aquarium, striking up a conversation with the man.

"He was asking me questions about the animals, and I was answering them, you know, showing him the animals, the shark, the octopus. Just trying to maintain a conversation while I was maintaining a text message with our security people here," she said.

When Irvin left the aquarium, Carlson called the zoo, and they called police.

Officers spotted him getting onto a DART train and caught up to him on Pacific Avenue. He was taken to police headquarters for questioning.


Davion Irvin (Source: Dallas Jail)

Irvin is now facing six animal cruelty charges connected to the tamarin monkey case. 

He also faces two charges for burglary into a building for the tamarin monkey case and allegedly cutting a hole in the clouded leopard habitat, which led to the escape of the animal.

RELATED: Dallas Zoo: Timeline of suspicious events that police are investigating

Irvin does not face charges in connection to the cuts that were found in the langur monkey habitat, nor the death of a vulture at the zoo, which is still under investigation.

Police say more charges could be coming.


Tips from surveillance images police released to the public led to a vacant house in Lancaster where police say the stolen monkeys were found, along with other animals, malnourished, but otherwise unharmed.

"There have been some isolated incident like this of individual animals. Maybe that were taken from a zoo, but not a repeated incident like this. This is really and truly unprecedented," said Dallas Zoo CEO and President Gregg Hudson.

An arrest affidavit shows the animal cruelty charges for Irvin are for leaving the animals in a Lancaster home without the knowledge or consent of the property owner.

The arrest affidavit also said in the days leading up to the monkeys' disappearance Irvin had been asking questions to zoo employees about several animals, including the emperor tamarin monkeys and the recently recovered clouded leopard.

According to the affidavit, Irvin asked for information about how to house and move emperor tamarins and ways to care for monkeys.

Irvin was seen in a non-public area around the emperor tamarin enclosure looking into windows into areas not accessible to the public.

The Dallas Zoo says Irvin has never been an employee or volunteer at the zoo.

Dallas police would not release a possible motive at this time.

The arrest marks a new chapter in a trying few weeks for the zoo.

The first incident involved a clouded leopard named Nova, its enclosure was cut and the leopard escaped. It was later found on the ground.

Intentional cuts were found in the netting on the langur monkey habitat, but the monkeys were still inside.

Days before the tamarins Bella and Finn went missing, an endangered vulture was found dead with what police described as a wound. 

"These aren't just miscellaneous anonymous animals. These are animals that we have relationships with. They are as much a part of the Dallas Zoo family as any of the staff are," said Harrison Edell of the Dallas Zoo.

A man who would not give FOX 4 crews his name, who may be a relative of the suspect, says Irvin is innocent.

He said if the zoo has photos of Irvin with the monkeys, they would have released them.

In the meantime, the zoo is promising security upgrades so this doesn't happen again.