UPDATED with cause of death: Erik Cowie, a zookeeper featured in Netflix’s Tiger King, died Sept. 3 from acute and chronic alcohol abuse, according to the New York Medical Examiner. He was 52.
Cowie was found dead Friday at 5:30 p.m. local time in a bedroom inside a Brooklyn apartment building. Although his identity was not immediately made public by police, NBC‘s local New York affiliate confirmed the identity with NYPD today.
A representative from the Medical Examiner’s office said the cause and manner of death are pending further studies following the examination.
Cowie is credited as Head Keeper at the self-proclaimed “Tiger King” Joe Exotic’s now-defunct G.W. Exotic Animal Zoo in Wynnewood, OK. where he worked directly with the wildcats. He worked at the zoo for five years.
Exotic is serving a 22-year prison sentence in connection to a murder-for-hire plot against his nemesis Carole Baskin and for crimes against his animals. Cowie testified against his former boss during Exotic’s trial in 2019, where he alleged Exotic shot five tigers to make space for more tigers. Cowie only heard the shots and did not see Exotic kill the animals, but he claimed, “I knew what was going on.”
TMZ, which first reported the news, claims no drugs were found on the scene.