|Photo by Theo Welling|
|Jeffry Smith: armed, but, he says, not at all dangerous.|
It's just another day at the Saint Louis Zoo, a Saturday in June, and the air is thick with humidity, sweat and sunscreen. Children drag parents along winding pathways to see the new polar bear, to get another soda, to find a bathroom, to have their faces painted like tigers. But something is amiss outside the zoo's south entrance.
There, five police officers stand guard near the turnstiles. Just down the sidewalk a dozen people — nearly all women — wave signs reading "Animals not Ammo" and "Gun-Free Zone." The protesters stare daggers toward Jeffry Smith, a towering, pot-bellied bear of a man stuffed into a pink polo shirt and white shorts. He wears a maroon visor cap stenciled with the name of a Florida country club. He also wears a pistol holster on his waist, but it's empty. It looks like a chunky cell-phone case sold at a mall kiosk.
Smith, 56, has stationed himself in a patch of shade beneath a pedestrian bridge near the entrance, a slightly more comfortable spot to field questions from the gaggle of reporters on scene. He's surrounded by cameras and microphones.
"So, it's my understanding that you're from Cincinnati," begins a FOX 2 reporter. "Why come all the way here to Missouri to make this statement?"
Smith, who at six-foot-nine looms over the man, grumbles back, "I didn't."More »