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ZOOKEEPER by Mark Turner
October 28, 2010  Short stories   Tags:   

The following account of a zombie (Hostile Infected Person, or H.I.P.) encounter was collected at the Spring River Zoo in Roswell, New Mexico from the security tapes off of several different computers.

According to personnel files recovered from the zoo’s computers, Jonathan Ramirez was a 52-year-old custodian who worked at the zoo for 22 years. His personal file showed a man who was rarely late for work and who had multiple reports from zoo patrons telling administrators how nice and helpful Mr. Ramirez was.

A few handwritten notes by a human resources worker said that Ramirez had been around the zoo a long time and probably knew more about the ins and outs of the complex than anyone else – even helping zookeepers with a few tasks.

The account is not a journal, but an inference made by the authors as to what happened to Ramirez based on computer records and security footage salvaged.

Why Mr. Ramirez was still working at the zoo on Z-Day+13, while the rest of the city and state had been evacuated 13 days ago, is not known. It has been suggested by some of the researchers that a part of his personnel file that said that Ramirez took the bus to work every day might suggest he had no car of his own to evacuate.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Ramirez was at work despite there being no visitors for nearly a week and no other staff logging in for two days.

Additionally information about Ramirez taken from his HR file:

He had no wife or family listed in his file – his wife dying of cancer in 2002.

He also had asked HR about the possibility of getting Lasik eye surgery in 2005, but it was not covered in the zoo’s insurance plan.


  • Jonathan Ramirez clocks into the automated system at 7:30 a.m. Records show that Ramirez was nearly always on time for work.
  • Mr. Ramirez’s security card is swiped for entry to the custodian garage. Ramirez was certified to drive every maintenance vehicle the zoo operated. What he drove that day of work is not known, although it is likely that he mainly operated one of the several golf carts that staff used to shuttle around the zoo.
  • Automated systems record the opening of the garage door of the custodial garage roughly 15 minutes after Ramirez had entered. Shift assignment logs recovered at the zoo showed that Ramirez was to clean up any overnight trash or mess before the zoo’s opening at 9 a.m. every day. A number of trees around the zoo might mean that leaves or branches had to be cleared away from sidewalks before opening.
  • At 8:15 a.m., the automated system in charge of letting the animals out of their overnight pens switches on, opening cages and letting the animals out into their enclosures. Handwritten notes were discovered in the zookeeper areas for the African lions, showing that a majority of the animals needing to be hand-fed were getting food and water from whoever was keeping the informal log during the two days after authorized zookeepers had stopped coming in to work (Z+11). Since Ramirez was the only person researchers know was still working at the zoo, it is believed he was doing his best to feed the animals.
  • At 1:15 p.m., Ramirez clocks out for his hour lunch. He clocks back in for work at 2:13 p.m.
  • 6:24 p.m., the front gates of the zoo are pulled down and locked. Security cameras are not on at this point, but investigators wonder if this was a normal task of Mr. Ramirez.
  • 6:32 p.m., the custodian garage door is shut and locked. Seven (7) minutes later, the door to the garage leading back to the employee entrance opens and shuts.
  • 6:42 p.m., Mr. Ramirez clocks out of work. After Ramirez leaves the zoo, automated systems are still up and running. Researches have learned from zookeepers interviewed that animals in captivity learn a routine and are usually waiting for automated doors to open at certain times of the day. It is assumed that the animals in the enclosures went back into their cages at night as per their normal routine. Animals expecting something to eat before bed, however, had no one to feed them as the handwritten log does not have any entries for those habitats. A simple explanation could be that Ramirez’s day shift meant that he was unaware of the feeding times or habits of nighttime feeders and didn’t know what to feed them.
  • The security system for the zoo activates at 7 p.m. From what researches were able to find, the system did not lock down the zoo, but put secured areas on higher alert. It is here that security cameras start adding to our understanding of what happened that night with snapshots and short pieces of video of areas that have movement in them.
  • At 8:13 p.m., the employee entrance to the zoo is opened from the outside by Ramirez. A security camera takes a shot of Ramirez entering the facility with a suitcase and a green gym bag. He also has a baseball bat tucked under one of his arms. (See Item PIC1304A) Experts suggest, due to the blurred nature of the photo, that Ramirez was moving very quickly despite having two travel items and a bat with him. The fact that he is not seen wearing his zookeeper uniform has led to the theory that Ramirez had gone home, encountered a H.I.P., and returned to the zoo. Attempts to see the condition of his home turned up nothing as the address listed in his personnel file was one of the homes caught in the fires that burned down much of suburban Roswell years later.
  • 8:14 p.m., the automated system records a clock-in by Ramirez and the door being opened.
  • At 8:16-9:23 p.m., cameras record video of Ramirez in administrative offices.
    • It shows him setting down his bags and trying to use a phone. Phone logs were not available, but Ramirez spends nearly two minutes on the phone before hanging it up. Records show that the 911 telephone system in TOWN had crashed due to high use on Z+13, but we do not know for sure if he called 911.
    • Ramirez then locks the door and moves a filing cabinet and a table in front of it. It is now very apparent at this point that Mr. Ramirez is being pursued, or believes he is being followed, by at least one H.I.P.
    • Seemingly satisfied with his barricade, he sits down in a chair and hunches over for a period of time, either to catch his breath or cry (No audio is available)
    • Ramirez opens the gym bag and pulls out bags of food, a book (most likely a Bible, the book was not recovered from the site), a framed picture (of his late wife, recovered from the site) and a clock radio (not recovered). The authors believe that Ramirez brought the radio with him because the national news media had been stressing to viewers that even if television stations were to fail, that radio would still be able to broadcast. Additionally, media and government messages had been telling the masses that bringing a battery powered radio was a key survival item in the event of evacuation.
    • Ramirez seems to turn on the radio and adjusts the dial for a few moments to try and get something to come in clearly. After finding something to listen to, he eats some food while listening. After roughly 20 minutes, he gets up and grabs his bat, packs his belongings back into the bag, moves toward the door and starts to remove the file cabinet and table. It is unclear what motivated Ramirez to leave the administrative office – be it something heard on the radio or a sudden idea. We do know that at that point no alarms had been triggered by Infected.
  • At approximately 9:45 p.m., Mr. Ramirez uses his keycard to enter the Security Office of the zoo. Here, there were multiple ways for him to monitor nearly the entire zoo at once. No cameras were installed inside the security office, but an exterior camera did record Ramirez entering. Post-crisis survival experts say that moving to the security offices may have been where things started going wrong for Ramirez. In order to get there, he had to travel halfway across the grounds, which could have attracted attention of H.I.P.’s that had already been attracted to the zoo’s animal population or perhaps some other unseen evacuee. Additionally, the offices had ground-level access to the outside while the administrative offices had multiple doors and checkpoints to get through in order to gain access.
  • At 10:09 p.m., a security camera near the main entrance activates after detecting motion near the main gate.
  • At 10:12 p.m., security cameras record several snapshots of H.I.P.s outside of the zoo moving towards the main entrance. Within a few minutes, most of the H.I.P.s began trying to force their way through the gates. Ramirez would have definitely been able to see the H.I.P.s from his monitoring station. In fact, all of the video evidence used in this case study was recovered at the security office. Evidence has shown that the kind of pull-down security gates that were commonly used by business provided only temporary protection against a H.I.P. and that protection time was dramatically shortened with each additional H.I.P. attacking it.
  • At 10:16 p.m., Ramirez leaves the guard station. A snapshot taken by the external camera showed him carrying a firearm. Records show that the zoo had four rifles on-site for use in animal attacks – two that shot tranquilizer darts and the other two being a Browning Maxus Semi-automatic 12-gage shotguns. Examining the site years later showed that only one of the weapons, one of the tranquilizer guns, remained years later. Most likely escapees later found the weapons and took them.
  • 10:23 p.m., cameras at the front of the zoo are still filming the Infected at the gate. Suddenly, one of the hostiles flies backward several feet as his left shoulder is struck by a rifle round, effectively removing the arm from the torso. The other H.I.P.s react by increasing their efforts at the gate. H.I.P. experts believe that when Ramirez shoots the first zombie, the others notice him for the first time due to the sound of the gun. Upon seeing human prey, the amount of effort the H.I.P.s would be putting upon the gate would have increased.
  • 10:24 p.m., Cameras record another infected individual being hit by a gunshot in the stomach. The round rips through the left abdomen and the force spins the H.I.P. to the ground (Note: the hostile returns to the fence a few minutes later). Experts say that the time between shots might indicate that Ramirez was not an experienced gun user – however, with no camera shooting video that shows Mr. Ramirez or a way to count muzzle flashes, it is unknown how many shots Ramirez had taken in that time of roughly 60 seconds.
  • 10:25 p.m., A spark or flash is seen on the fence, indicating that a rifle round hit the fence and not a H.I.P. The bullet breaks the metal links at the point of contact and the fence’s integrity begins to be compromised.
  • 10:26 p.m., Two more H.I.P.s join the group, most likely responding to the sound of gunfire and the moans of the other H.I.P.s. (see report on H.I.P. response to audible sounds made by other H.I.P.s)
  • 10:27 p.m., A hole in the fence, roughly 3 feet about ground, starts to appear due to the H.I.P.s’ efforts; A rifle round from Ramirez strikes a hostile in the face from a different angle than before, causing it’s skull to explode and eliminating that H.I.P. as a threat. Experts say the blood spray pattern and the angle in which the eliminated H.I.P. moved after being hit show that Ramirez had moved from directly in front of the group of hostiles to an angle to the right. Zoo maps suggest that he went from shooting from the large fountain to the ticketing building, which would have moved Ramirez 15 yards closer to the targets.
  • 10:29 p.m., Another gunshot hits a target. This round destroys the left had and wrist of a hostile. The height and angle of the shot seems to imply that Ramirez was aiming for the head of the H.I.P. directly to the left of the struck target. By now, the hole in the fence has increased in size and two of the H.I.P.s are trying to crawl through.
  • At 10:30-10:37 p.m., cameras record Mr. Ramirez engaging the attackers up close with the rifle.
    • Standing just feet away, he pulls the trigger at one of the two H.I.P.s fighting to get through the hole in the fence. His shot hits the nearest target between the right shoulder and neck, effectively destroying the collarbone, which causes the target’s head to start to lean towards the ground.
    • Ramirez takes a step forward as he loads a second round into the chamber. He fires into the crowd of attackers again, this round hitting a hostile in the chest and knocking it onto its back.
    • Ramirez reloads, and again gets closer. This time, he puts the gun barrel in the mouth of a H.I.P. leaning towards him through the hole and pulls the trigger, causing the head to explode and the elimination of the threat. The eliminated hostile’s body goes limp in the middle of the gang of attackers, getting wedged into the hole.
    • Mr. Ramirez reloads and steps to the left (his right) of the hole and tries to put the gun barrel in the face or mouth of another attacker. He pulls the trigger and drops another attacker, only four remain.
    • Ramirez attempts to reload his rifle with the barrel still between the bars, but has to pull more ammunition out of a pocket. It is at this moment that one of the H.I.P.s grabs the gun and starts to pull it. Experts agree that the hostile’s actions were not meditated, but simply instinct. The hostiles saw the rifle as an extension of their prey and grabbed the gun as they would have grabbed an arms or leg. It should be pointed out that tales of H.I.P.s “disarming” prey has been proven to be simply a case of a basic action being viewed as something else entirely.
    • Another hostile then grabs the gun’s barrel. Ramirez is right handed, so the rifle is under his right arm – effectively putting his body between the hole with attackers in it and the rifle. He responds to the rifle being grabbed by trying to pull it back, but is unable to free it from the hostiles’ grips.
  • 10:37 p.m., Ramirez is struggling to wrench the rifle free from the H.I.P.s on the other side of the gate. With one last tug, Ramirez pulls back to pull the gun’s barrel away from the pack of attackers, but in order to achieve that angle, Ramirez puts himself closer to the hole. It should be suggested here that Ramirez may have been so caught up in retrieving his weapon from the hostiles that he forgot that one of the two H.I.P.s in the hole had not been eliminated.
  • 10:38 p.m., the H.I.P. that Ramirez had hit with a rifle round in the collarbone reaches out and grabs Ramirez’s left arm. The victim tries to pull away, but the hostile’s grip is too strong. The attacker then pulls Ramirez closer to the hole and bites into his left bicep, removing nearly half of the muscle in a single bite. Medical experts agreed that a H.I.P. or animal bite removing that much flesh would be fatal in conditions where medical attention was not immediate. Doctors also said that Ramirez would have immediately lost all strength in his left arm with the apparent muscle and tendon damage.
  • 10:39 p.m., A second arm from the pack of attackers reaches through the hole and pulls Ramirez’s left arm through the hole with a sudden jerk, possibly breaking the forearm.
  • 10:40 p.m., Ramirez is pulling back against the group to try and free his arm. In his panic, he begins punching with his right hand into the group. Second looks at the footage confirm that the victim is only landing shots on the headless zombie he had killed earlier.
  • 10:41 p.m., Ramirez wrenches his arm free from the pack of H.I.P.s and falls back away from the gate. His arm is broken and most of the flesh from the arm has been removed. The victim crawls, then walks, away from the danger area back towards the security office. Experts say that Ramirez had very little time left at this point. They also confirm that the number of bites would have easily infected Ramirez in less than two hours.
  • At 10:44 p.m., Ramirez gets back to the guard station, but is unable to open the door. The victim kicks and punches the door a few moments in apparent frustration. Whether the victim simply forgot his security card when he left the station to shoot at the H.I.P.s, or if it was lost during the struggle, is unknown.
  • 10:46 p.m., Ramirez sits down in front of the door. Experts suggest that at this point, the tranquilizing effects of the hostiles’ bites have begun to take effect on Ramirez, who would most-likely have no more adrenaline in his system to ward off the toxins.
  • 10:52 p.m. The attacking H.I.P.s break through the gate and begin to pursue Ramirez. The number of attackers is now at six individuals since two more have arrived. It is likely that the sound of the moaning and the gunshots during the encounter at the gate.
  • 10:57 p.m., The first H.I.P. reaches Ramirez, who does not try to flee. It is indeterminable if Ramirez has died of blood loss or if he is still stunned from his bites.
  • 11:14 p.m., Jonathan Ramirez has been consumed by six H.I.P.s, which begin to walk the zoo for additional prey.

The account of Mr. Jonathan Ramirez was put together by researchers going on evidence found at the scene of his death. Interviews with medical, survival, zombie and psychology experts were used.

In the case of Ramirez, Dr. Samantha Wells felt that most-likely it was Ramirez’s attachment to his gun that ultimately caused his death. Wells said that research has shown that victims in survival situations will cling onto an item, usually a weapon, which they view as their means for survival and, many times, it ends up costing the victim their life.

“During his attack, Ramirez could have released the gun and simply retreated back to the guard station to retrieve the second rifle,” Wells said. “Instead, he saw the gun he had been using as his lifeline and fought to keep it.”

It should be noted that Dr. Wells also admits that Ramirez may have known he was locked out of the guard station and knew he would not have access to the other weapon.

“However, Ramirez still could have retreated from the gate and found a hiding place or simply ran off the zoo grounds to flee his attackers,” Wells concluded.


  1. Well, that was different

    Comment by dmrma on October 28, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  2. I love the “incident report” feel of this. It could use some touch-up’s here and there with the format, but overall very good. My mom works at the police department transcribing reports and with a little more tweaking this story would be fantastic.
    Nice one!

    Comment by Barrett on October 28, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  3. How interesting.

    Comment by Ashley on October 28, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  4. Nice job!

    I am still waiting for the CPA Zombie story…LOL

    Comment by empoftheearth on October 28, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

  5. A nice AAR. I do have two slight problems. First is the use of ‘off of’ in the first paragraph. Its just me but I hate that phrase. Not your fault. Second, why such a detailed AAR for one person when the whole world has gone to pot. To be honest I was expecting something spectacular at the end to understand why experts were involved, and why so much effort had gone into understanding the situation with one person out of billions. I loved the very clinical style though and it was pulled off really well. Looking forward to the next one.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on October 29, 2010 @ 4:49 am

  6. Nice story. Would like some more background information as to why this incident was analyzed.

    Send more.

    Comment by Bernie on October 29, 2010 @ 8:37 am

  7. ramirez sounds like a dumbass. i doubt he would have been able to survive 13 days if he cant hit a zombie in the head at that range with a rifle.

    Comment by joey on October 29, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  8. Ramerez was in the rear with the sergeant major, the gear and the beer. Not the most savvy warrior. Keep cool, eliminate threats that are closest to you. Be aware.
    I’n surprised that Rameriz survived so long to feed the wild animals.

    Comment by John the Piper's Son on October 29, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  9. @ joey

    “ramirez sounds like a dumbass. i doubt he would have been able to survive 13 days if he cant hit a zombie in the head at that range with a rifle.”

    I think the author was trying to convey that Ramirez was unaware that head shots were the only way to kill the Zeds.

    Comment by Jim on October 30, 2010 @ 8:21 am

  10. Ramirez should have avoided the zoo alogether I guess he was a creature of habit but the story was well and there is one less zombie bastard to deal with

    Comment by kage on November 14, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

  11. I appreciate the different style but I thought it was a cumbersome read. I lost interest early, sorry.

    Comment by Clement S. on November 23, 2010 @ 10:34 am

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