D.C. boy mauled by pit bulls has surgery

January 22, 2013

The bloody paw prints travel the length of a city block, from a Northwest Washington street corner where police said an 11-year-old was mauled by three pit bulls to the welcome mat at the dogs’ owner’s home.

Two days after the attack, in which police said all three dogs were fatally shot, the prints were a reminder of what happened at Eighth and Sheridan streets on Sunday afternoon. Police said a neighbor and an officer shot the pit bulls as they sank their teeth into the boy’s legs, arms, stomach and chest.

The boy underwent surgery and remains hospitalized, a family member said. One of the dogs managed to limp back to his house before he died, leaving the bloody trail up Eighth Street. The boy, the dog owner and the shooter live on the same block.

An uncle of the victim’s said the boy was riding a new Huffy dirt bike with orange rims he had gotten for Christmas. The uncle said his nephew emerged from an alley onto Sheridan Street, where he collided with the pit bulls.

D.C. police said the unleashed and unattended dogs attacked the boy before a neighbor who saw it went into his home, got his handgun and fired once, hitting one of the dogs. A D.C. police officer on bicycle patrol heard the shots, and authorities said he shot and killed the other two pit bulls. It was unclear from a police report exactly how many shots the officer fired.

“The injuries are terrible,” the boy’s uncle said, adding that he saw all three dogs with their teeth clenched on the youth’s extremities when the neighbor and officer opened fire. “This boy is traumatized,” the man said. “He told me doesn’t want to go outside anymore. He’s too scared.”

He also said his nephew was struck in the left foot by a bullet; police said they had no record that either a shot fired by the officer or the neighbor struck the boy.

Of the shooters, the 34-year-old uncle said, “They did the right thing.”

The Washington Post is not identifying the uncle because to do so would identify the victim.

Police said they gave the dog owner a citation charging him with failing to leash his dogs — $25 fines for each — and with “menacing people,” which carries a $100 fine.

Reached at his home Tuesday, the owner declined to comment.

D.C. police said they are reviewing the incident and have left open the possibility that the neighbor could be charged with violating the District’s gun laws.

A police spokesman would not say whether the gun was legally registered. Even if it was, using it on a D.C. street is illegal. But David Benowitz, a defense lawyer who handles D.C. gun cases, said prosecuting such a case could be problematic because the attack appeared to have occurred near the shooter’s property line.

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