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Tennessee man climbed fences to pet tiger at Denver Zoo, police say

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Posted at 12:20 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-03 14:21:38-04

DENVER – A Tennessee man apparently on a cross-country trip was cited in March after he allegedly climbed over a fence at the Denver Zoo and was able to get close enough to the tiger exhibit to pet one of the big cats while it was sleeping.

Matthew Swearingen, 34, was cited by the Denver Police Department for criminal trespassing after the incident, in which he is accused of jumping a public barrier fence at the zoo’s new tiger exhibit.

The zoo says the tiger that was touched was sleeping in the overhead catwalk of the newly-opened "The Edge" tiger area, but that Swearingen “never accessed the exhibit and neither he, nor the tiger, were harmed.”

Swearingen’s Facebook profile says he’s from New York and lives in Washington, D.C., but a DPD report says he produced a Tennessee ID when he was taken into custody.

On his page, he says that he is on a cross-country bicycle trip, though at least one picture shows him on an airplane.

On March 26, eight days after he was taken into custody, he wrote on Facebook that he “pet the tiger at the zoo” while recounting his time in Denver.

The zoo says it is “currently evaluating this area to determine if anything additional needs to be done to discourage this illegal behavior from happening again.”

A mugshot for Swearingen was not available because he was cited and not booked.

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