Statement from Mike Leven, CEO of Georgia Aquarium, on Jose Luis Barbero's death

It was with sadness, outrage and frustration that I received the news this morning that Jose Luis Barbero was found dead in Spain. Initial reports suggest that he allegedly ended his own life. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather who dedicated nearly four decades to caring for animals. We at Georgia Aquarium were proud to have had him serve periodically as a consultant to our organization over the past eight years. His service with us was exemplary.

After allegations were levied against him, we took the situation very seriously. Georgia Aquarium began a search for truth in hopes of disproving these unsubstantiated claims. Sadly, he and his family received death threats, and groups and individuals rushed to judge him. He was not given the right or the privilege to be considered innocent until proven guilty, a principle I hold dear. His death is untimely, unnecessary and unjust.

We were not given the chance to thoughtfully and thoroughly review the allegations against him before activists, consultants and some in our own community tortured him with enough hatred to cause him to allegedly take his own life. I hope the death of Jose Luis Barbero teaches those who were quick to condemn him a lesson about being hasty to charge and indict.

We will continue to operate Georgia Aquarium with dedication, devotion and pride in how we care for and about our animals — as well as the people affiliated with our organization. We will continue to serve the community and be advocates for animals around the world, as we have done since our founding. We will never condone any injustice, such as the one done to Jose Luis Barbero.

We mourn with his family, his friends and all those who must contend with this terrible loss.