Three killed by pit bulls, three in human conflict involving dogs, one possibly by German shepherd, one killed by dogs unidentified by breed
HOUSTON, Texas––A January 28, 2019 shoot-out in Houston, Texas that left five police officers injured and two drug suspects dead raised the apparent dog-related death toll for the month, worldwide, to eight, the highest since December 2017, when eight people were killed in the U.S. alone.
Unlike in December 2017, however, at least three of the January 2019 deaths resulted from human conflict involving dogs, rather than directly from dog attacks.
Lunging pit-bull triggered shoot-out
The Houston shoot-out, police chief Art Acevedo told Tom Steele and Loyd Brumfield of KHOU television news, when “about a dozen narcotics officers were serving a [no-knock] search warrant,” at the home of suspected heroin dealer Dennis Tuttle, 59, “backed up by a half-dozen patrol officers.
“As police breached the front door, a pit bull lunged at them,” Acevedo explained, “and an officer shot the dog. A man in the home then began shooting at police, and a number of officers returned fire.”
The return fire killed Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, along with the pit bull.
“Acevedo said that Nicholas was shot trying to take a weapon away from a wounded officer who had fallen on the couch inside the home,” Steele and Brumfield reported.
Police said marijuana and cocaine were found in the home, but not heroin.
Pit bull killed baby in Costa Rica
The deaths of Tuttle and Brumfield, who had been married for about 20 years according to family members, and did not appear to have related prior convictions, came about six and a half hours after a pit bull killed a 11-month-old baby and injured the baby’s mother at their home in San Gabriel de Calle Blancos de Goicoechea, a suburb of San José, Costa Rica.
The baby had apparently crawled from the house into a garage where the pit bull was allowed to run loose. Police reportedly found five other unlicensed dogs and a parrot, of a variety not permitted to be kept by private citizens, on the premises.
42 days without dog-related death ended with punch to the head
The first dog-related fatality of January 2019 ended a rare 42-day stretch without a U.S. dog-related death.
Matthew Oropeza, 24, surrendered to police on January 10, five days after allegedly punching data programmer Drew Justice, 38, in the face so hard that Justice fell backward, hitting his head on the concrete sidewalk at Gold Star Park in South Philadelphia. Justice suffered fatal brain trauma in front of his screaming fiancé, Kristi Buchholz, as a passer-by tried desperately to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Oropeza fled the scene. Justice died soon after an ambulance rushed him to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Was there a pit bull?
Initial police and media reports, based on eyewitness statements, agreed that Justice had asked Oropeza to leash his pit bull, as Justice and Buchholz were concerned for the safety of their shih tzu and Gold Star Park does not include an off-leash area for dogs.
Oropeza was said to have left Gold Star Park with only one dog, the pit bull.
A police affidavit released on January 14, however, said that Oropeza had two dogs running off-leash, identified as “Coco, a fluffy white shih tzu, and Bentley, a brown German shepherd/border collie mix.”
A friend of Oropeza, Tara Cavaliere, posted to Facebook a photo of two dogs matching that description.
Of note is that Oropeza was at large for five days, during which he had time to dispose of a pit bull, if in fact he had one.
Oropeza was charged with involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and making terroristic threats.
Oropeza, an online gamer who favored games with hand-to-hand combat themes, had two prior arrests for fighting, in Brookhaven in 2013 and Ridley Township in 2016, and told police he “had a verbal run-in with another man” about his dogs running off-leash on January 1, 2019.
Three degrees of homicide
Commented California dog attack attorney Kenneth Phillips, on his Facebook page Dog Bite Law, “There are degrees of homicide based on the amount of evil involved, which is measured by how much thought went into the killing, or how it was done, or who the victim was.
“Generally speaking, there are three degrees,” Phillips explained. “The first degree is when the killer plans it ahead of time, the second degree is when the killer does something that consciously ignores the risk of death, and the third degree is when the killing is essentially accidental, but also worse than a common accident.
“Additionally, the degree of homicide is determined by what the perpetrator was doing at the time of the killing, such as committing a crime or doing something inherently dangerous but not criminal.
“Should be classified as 2nd-degree murder”
‘In this case,” Phillips assessed, “Oropeza happens to be a confirmed criminal who was in the process of breaking the law by allowing his dog to be unleashed. He had two previous arrests for fighting, in 2013 to which he pleaded guilty, and 2016 which landed him in a diversionary program, ending in dismissal of the criminal charge for fighting.
“The prosecutor has charged Oropeza with manslaughter, which is third degree homicide. I disagree with that decision,” Phillips said. “It is a close call, but I feel that this killing should be classified as second degree murder, because the perpetrator had been previously convicted of the same thing, obviously should have been aware of the harm he could inflict on another human being, and was in the process of endangering his neighbors by allowing his [dogs or alleged pit bull] to roam unleashed, which was the direct cause of this incident.”
What were the “seven mixed breed dogs” who killed Dianne Reves?
Also left unclear by the available information is the breed identity of what sheriff’s deputies called “seven mixed breed dogs” who left retired nurse Dianne Reves, 70, dead in her yard on January 10, 2019 from what sheriff’s department investigator Josh Dale told the Grenada Star were “several hundred dog bites.”
All seven dogs, who averaged 80 pounds according to the Grenada Star, were euthanized.
Their owner was reportedly Phillip Sr Cross, who lived two houses away on the same road. “Many people are saying Cross is a longtime dog hoarder and breeder,” added DeAngelo Vaxter of WJTV.
Cross, who said in another Facebook post that he lived for hunting, in January 2014 posted to Facebook a photo of five puppies he offered for sale, describing them as “part German shepherd, part Bluetick.”
January 16, 2019 brought two more fatalities, both by multiple pit bulls.
In White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa, police Sergeant Cynthia Mbokodo told freelance reporter Buks Viljoen that two pit bulls killed a five-year-old girl whose kindergarten teacher, a neighbor of her parents, was also her after-school babysitter.
That day the pit bulls attacked the girl when the teacher opened the gate to her home.
“A case of culpable homicide is being investigated by the police,” said Viljoen.
The White River SPCA impounded and euthanized both pit bulls.
Unwelcome guests’ four pits killed 70-year-old
Four pit bulls later on January 16 killed Lana Bergman, 70, of Joshua Tree, California.
Reported Brian Rokos of the San Bernardino Sun, “Bergman’s brother, Palmdale resident Jay Barnett, said in a phone interview that at the request of a friend of Bergman’s, the dogs’ owners had been allowed to move their trailer onto her property for a couple of days. But two days turned into two weeks, and Bergman asked them to leave on multiple occasions. On January 16, the day Bergman was killed, she again asked the owners to leave, Barnett said.”
Barnett told Rokos that contrary to an earlier statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Bergman’s husband had not lived on the premises in three years, and the pit bulls were not “considered family pets, which the victim helped care for over the past year.”
Felony child abuse
Breanna Henson, 30, of Tucson, Arizona, was on January 24, 2019 arrested on suspicion of one count of felony child abuse and released into the custody of her parents, Tucson Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Pete Dugan told media.
Police had responded to a 1 a.m. call to find Henson’s eight-month-old daughter Patricia Henson unresponsive with what Dugan called “significant trauma.”
Reported Sean Mooney of KVOA television, “The Tucson Police Department child physical abuse unit and animal control were brought in to investigate. Neighbors say they saw a German shepherd being taken away.”
“The interim complaint filed in Pima County Consolidated Justice Court says Henson was intoxicated at the time,” elaborated Gloria Knott and Shaq Davis of the Arizona Daily Star. “Henson was the only adult in the home. Patricia was pronounced dead on scene. Dugan said she had puncture wounds and scratches possibly caused by a dog, but an autopsy is needed to determine the cause of death.”
Babysitter gets four years
January 2019 also brought developments in two prosecutions for death by dog attack.
In Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Erica Nicole Jordan, 33, was on January 14 sentenced to serve four years in prison, the maximum, after pleading guilty in November 2018 to second-degree involuntary manslaughter for the March 9, 2018 death of 13-month-old Loxli Chavez.
Jordan was babysitting Chavez while also housing a neutered pit bull/Lab/Malamute mix for her brother Chris.
Christopher Dale Collins, 41, of Winchester, Kentucky, was on January 26, 2019 charged with second-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly leaving his wife April Collins, 45, alone with a pit bull who had bitten her multiple times in the past, including on the evening before the pit bull killed her.
“According to court documents, Christopher Collins arrived home on November 1, 2018,” summarized Fred Petke of the Winchester Sun, “and found his wife April unresponsive in their home with multiple injuries from their dog. She died the following day at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
“Detective Matt Eversole with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said April Collins was bitten by the dog on October 31, 2018, but Christopher Collins did not report it. Eversole said neighbors and acquaintances saw April Collins with other dog bite wounds, but those incidents were not reported or documented,” although a bite inflicted on April Collins on September 29, 2018 was reported.
“Didn’t want to lose dog”
“Christopher Collins told detectives he did not report the October 31 incident because they didn’t want to lose their dog,” Petke added. “Christopher Collins also said the dog would only attack April when she was drinking alcohol.
“Eversole said toxicology testing confirmed there was alcohol in April Collins’ system at the time of her death.”
Offered Dogsbite.org, “Christopher Collins has a long rap sheet of misdemeanors, including charges of terroristic threatening in the third degree and menacing in 2018. From 2012 to 2014, Collins faced seven charges for violation of a Kentucky domestic violence order and two charges for assault in the fourth degree. He pleaded guilty to eight of them, according to CourtNet, a database that collects court activity in Kentucky counties.”