The July 17 Free for All letter from Calvert pit bull owner Kristina Cooley attacks the headline "Veteran Firefighter Dies After Fending Off Pit Bull" as misleading [Metro, July 10]. She chastises the headline writer, saying that, unlike what the headline implies, there was no relationship between the death of D.C. firefighter Costello N. Robinson and his encounter with a pit bull in an alley.
Ms. Cooley argues that because the firefighter died of a heart attack, because the knee he injured in the encounter with the dog had been injured previously and because he did not appear to have been bitten -- one really can't put any blame on the dog for the firefighter's death.
Let's review. A healthy firefighter walks into an alley on two good legs (as reported in the article, the previous knee injury happened 18 years ago). He is attacked by a pit bull. In fending off the attack, he falls, injuring his knee. Less than 72 hours later he dies of a heart attack in the hospital where he was to undergo surgery to repair the knee.
Sounds to me like the headline couldn't have been more accurate. Any first-year law student could argue successfully that the pit bull attack was, in fact, one of proximate causes -- if not the cause -- of firefighter Robinson's death. It is not hard to imagine that the stress and trauma of the incident, the body's immune response to the injury or medications and the sedentary time spent in a hospital bed could have contributed to Mr. Robinson's heart attack.
Ms. Cooley urges members of the press to be more careful in how they word their headlines. I urge her and her fellow pit bull owners to be more careful about how they supervise their canines.
Her attempt to exonerate the pit bull (a breed with a dubious track record) diminishes the public service of and supreme sacrifice made by firefighter Robinson. I find it disturbing that Ms. Cooley's indignation was directed at headline writers and not at the owner of the pit bull running loose in that alley.
JAMES V. REILLY
The writer is a firefighter in Prince George's County.