San Francisco police on Wednesday searched the cell phones and car of two brothers mauled by a zoo tiger, looking for evidence that they may have provoked the animal, which also killed a friend of the men.
"We're in the process of using the search warrant now," Sgt. Neville Gittens, a police spokesman, said Wednesday, adding that police would not immediately make public the findings from the search because the investigation remains open.
As police looked through the phones and car belonging to Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 24, the city attorney's office and San Francisco Zoo officials went to Santa Clara Superior Court to gain their own access.
Attorneys for the city and the zoo say they must conduct their own inspection of the items to prepare a defense against expected lawsuits over the Dec. 25 tiger attack, which killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and severely injured the brothers before the big cat was killed.
Zoo officials have acknowledged that the wall separating the big cats from the public is only 12 1/2 feet tall — 4 feet lower than the recommended minimum.
Something 'motivated this tiger'
In court documents, the city and the zoo contend that the car and phones may contain evidence that the young men from San Jose drank, used drugs and taunted the tiger the night of the attacks.
"We know that something happened out there in the zoo that motivated this tiger," Deputy City Attorney Sean Connolly told reporters outside the courthouse.
Judge Socrates Manoukian said he would not announce any decisions until Friday about whether the city attorney's office could inspect the items.
The phones and the car have been in San Francisco police custody since the night of the attacks pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, though the department has given little indication that they believe the young men had done anything wrong. Police investigators have previously said the car contained an empty vodka bottle.
The search warrant also allows them to search the contents of the phones. The city attorney's office has argued that the phones may include photos, text messages and call logs that could help them reconstruct events the night of the attacks.
A lawyer for the brothers called the city's attempt to examine his clients' personal property "unlawful."
"They didn't commit any crimes, and they didn't do anything to get those tigers to jump out," said Shepard Kopp, who is representing the Dhaliwals along with prominent California defense lawyer Mark Geragos. "There's nothing on those phones that's going to show these guys taunted or provoked this tiger in any way."