Gay man attacked at zoo: 'they say you know you're going to hell right?'

Published: Apr. 19, 2017 at 7:39 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2017 at 8:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South man visiting the Memphis Zoo Tuesday said he was punched and beaten in the face after another man asked him if he was gay, according to a Memphis Police Department report.

The incident happened near the Cat Cafe dining area. Reginald Buckner, 23, said the situation escalated when one of his attackers flashed a gun.

Buckner said the incident started when two women asked him if they could borrow his cell phone. He told them 'no'.

"They just asked all of us were we gay and we were like 'yeah' and they say 'you know you're going to hell right?' and I said 'wow'," Buckner said.

He said the women then joined up with a couple of men and that's when he said the derogatory comments started and were followed by several punches.

"They just started out of nowhere physically assaulting," Buckner said.

According to the police report, someone in the crowd shouted 'gun' as Buckner's friends came to his defense against the man who punched him.

After hearing someone shout 'gun', zoo visitors started scrambling.

"That's what made everyone start running away when they had the gun," Buckner said. "When she lifted up the gun everybody just started running."

The pain from the beating landed Buckner in the emergency room. His back was bruised and his face was swollen with a black eye.

Memphis police officers responded to the zoo, but those accused of punching and attacking Buckner were already gone.

Buckner said his frustration is focused on the zoo and why the person was allegedly able to bring a gun in the zoo.

"I am just literally just disgusted by them period. Because of the simple fact that they want to search everyone everywhere else. Why don't they want to search at the zoo for weapons," Buckner said.

The Memphis Zoo does not search items such as coolers and purses before entering. That's a policy the man said needs to be changed for the safety of visitors.

Memphis Zoo issued a statement Wednesday afternoon pertaining to the incident.

This was an isolated incident. The safety of all of our guests is of utmost importance and one of our top priorities. This matter is currently being handled by the Memphis Police Department. 

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