Two fatal attacks in one day––& one of the pit bulls allegedly killed before
DETROIT, Michigan; BRUNSWICK, Maryland––“Rescue” pit bulls on April 4, 2023 killed a 58-year-old man who was reportedly trying to feed them at an old warehouse in Detroit, Michigan, and a two-year-old boy at his grandmother’s house in Brunswick, Maryland.
The Detroit killer dogs, a pack of three according to neighbors, apparently included a two-time offender, DeNiro.
“My boy DeNiro got another body”
“It happened again. My boy DeNiro got another body. Two guys broke into the building today and my dogs felt threatened, so one of the guys did not make it out,” owner Dustin Shepherd posted to Facebook.
“They got my dogs,” Shepherd continued, apparently referring to Detroit Animal Care & Control. “I will be getting them back. The guy broke into the building and my dogs felt threatened and protected their home. I got two lawyers on it. They are going to save my dogs.
“My dogs did nothing wrong,” Shepherd insisted. “They didn’t break loose. They wasn’t going in people’s yards attacking nobody. They were in their environment where they were allowed to be, had permission to be, and that guy broke in. He was an intruder.
“The owner of the building is getting my dogs a lawyer,” Shepherd specified twice in later Facebook posts.
“They just did what any normal dog would do”
“All dogs’ instincts are to protect their home,” said Shepherd. “The guy broke in. On top of that he was swinging a 2×4 at them. They just did what any normal dog would do.”
Note that more than 2.6 million home break-ins occur per year in the U.S., where approximately 90 million dogs reside, but break-ins result in dog attack fatalities less than once a year on average, while about half of all dog attack fatalities are either the dogs’ owners, members of the owners’ household, or invited guests.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Shepherd added. “I feel sorry for the guy and I don’t wish that upon no one, but you cannot blame the dogs for protecting their home. No matter what, no way possible were my dogs in the wrong. Rather, they took a person’s life or not, they didn’t do anything to cause it.”
The law may take a different view of that, especially in view that the criminal penalties for breaking and entering, under any circumstance, do not include allowing the offender to be mauled to death by dogs, regardless of whether the dogs’ owner is present.
Victim “described as an animal lover”
Reported Jessica Dupnack and other FOX 2 staff investigators, “A 58-year-old man described as an animal lover was killed by two pit bulls that he was apparently trying to rescue from inside a boarded-up Detroit building.
“Police say the victim and his friend went to the building around 12:40 p.m.,” on their lunch break from working on another property about a block away.
The men, FOX 2 continued, “saw two dogs looking out of a window. One of the two, described as a man from Plymouth, Michigan,” a Detroit suburb, “went inside to see what was going on with the dogs and if they needed help.
“Bitten on his face”
“The Plymouth man did not return, but his co-worker said he saw the dogs with blood on them before he went inside the building and found the victim. Detroit police said it looked like the man killed had been bitten on his face.
Police reached the scene about 45 minutes after the attack.
“The victim was described as an animal lover who was always taking in animals in need,” Fox 2 added. “We spoke to the victim’s family, who told us off camera that they had some concerns over the security of the building where this happened. No other details were released.
Circumstantial indications suggest the victim may have been Daniel Joseph Bonacorsi, 58, of Plymouth, born May 8, 1964, died April 4, 2023.
No other recently reported Detroit-area deaths appear to match the particulars released by Detroit police.
Earlier fatality on September 7, 2022
“Another suspicious death reportedly took place at the building almost exactly seven months ago,” Fox 2 said. “On September 7, 2022, police were called to the same address when someone apparently broke in and was found dead. Police at the time said that it was unclear how he died.
“A cause of death for that man still has not been released, due to ‘external findings that require further interpretation,’ the Wayne County Medical Examiner told FOX 2.
Where Shepherd was on September 7, 2022 is unclear, but on September 18, 2022, Shepherd posted that he had just been released from jail after serving time on several misdemeanor warrants.
Added Fox 2, “The people who manage the property would not comment to the TV station on Wednesday about whether they have guard dogs at the building, but an investigation by animal control officers revealed the building was under renovation and that the pit bulls were owned, licensed, vaccinated and secured by the property owner, said John Roach, a Detroit city spokesman.”
“They look like junkyard dogs, all three”
Contributed Victor Williams and Brandon Carr of ClickOnDetroit, “The dogs were captured by the city’s Animal Care & Control Division. They are currently in a mandatory 10-day quarantine to be evaluated for their demeanor and rabies. After 10 days, a determination about the dogs will be made.
Offered neighbor Gordon Compton, “They look like junkyard dogs, all three. They’re scared, but when they’re together, that’s when they’re dangerous.”
“You try to do good and feed a dog and get killed by them,” Compton added. “They got to do something about that.
“A lady was trying to feed them”
“A lady was trying to feed them,” Compton remembered, “and she had to dive back into the window because they went after her last summer. I told her not to try to feed them.”
Volunteered a reader well-known to ANIMALS 24-7 after reading that account, “This is the same building where in the summer of 2021, a woman was trying to help some pit bulls there and she was mauled so badly she almost died. This did not make the news. I believe she lost an arm. [Detroit Animal Care & Control chief] Mark Kumpf was trying to get the city where the building owner lives to take the dogs, instead of bringing them to Detroit Animal Care & Control,” the reader alleged.
Said Gordon Compton’s wife, Ruby Compton, “We wouldn’t come out when they were loose. They run all up and down through here. All the time, I said something was going to happen with those dogs. They were going to hurt someone.”
Seventh dog attack fatality on Mark Kumpf’s watch
Detroit Animal Care & Control chief Mark Kumpf has now had two fatal dog attacks on his watch in Detroit, after having had five on his watch at his previous position in Montgomery County, Ohio. Several of the fatalities involved failures to impound dogs who were repeatedly reported to Montgomery County Animal Services for dangerous behavior.
(See Mark Kumpf named Detroit animal control chief. Remember Klonda Richey?)
While in Ohio, Kumpf helped to lead a legislative campaign that dismantled the Ohio dangerous dog law, which recognized pit bulls as “inherently vicious,” requiring that they be kept under strong security. Nineteen Ohio residents have been killed by pit bulls and other formerly restricted dog breeds since the dog law was weakened.
(See Toledo pit bull advocate Bonnie Varnes, 58, killed by family pit bull.)
Rehomed by City of Taylor Animal Shelter
The killer pit bull DeNiro, Dustin Shepherd’s Facebook photo gallery indicates, has also been known as Blue, and was returned to Shepherd by the City of Taylor Animal Shelter in October 2021, after having run away and been found at large.
The scene of both alleged fatal attacks by DeNiro, 5435 West Fort Street in Detroit, kitty-corner across West Fort Street from one of the Detroit police stations, originated as the D.H. Roberts Brass Manufacturing foundry.
The oldest part of the foundry building was constructed in 1905-1906, according to Detroit historical blogger Eric Hergenreder.
The building was expanded up to 110,000 square feet in 1920. It later was owned by Universal Scientific & Industrial Supply. A dangerous amount of highly explosive picric acid was removed from the site in 1993 by the Detroit Police Hazmet team.
In 2006 the building was purchased by Detroit property speculator Dennis Kefallinos, repeatedly identified by various media as one of the city’s “most notorious slumlords.”
Kefallinos in 2020 reportedly put 5435 West Fort Street and many other properties up for sale, after accumulating 86 “blight tickets” for failing to make repairs and running up unpaid water bills said to have totaled half a million dollars.
Dustin Shepherd appears to be trying to renovate 5435 West Fort Street into low-income housing, but on whose behalf is unclear.
“Guarding the building”
Observed Eric Hergenreder, “I’ve seen workers at the structure a handful of times, and to say they don’t follow OSHA or county guidelines would be the understatement of the century.
“While walking down the sidewalk, taking photographs, I heard dogs barking inside. When I got to the gate, I saw two dogs fly out of a doorway. They were barking like mad, and a third dog arrived on the scene to check out the commotion. These weren’t stray dogs—they were well fed, cared for, and apparently guarding the building.”
The Hergenreder post was dated January 27, but Hergenreder neglected to mention the year.
Blake Bettis, 2, killed at grandma’s house
While the Detroit pit bull attack was under investigation by police, Blake Bettis, 2, son of Kandi Bettis of Fauquier County, Virginia, nicknamed “Monkey” by his family for his active nature, on April 4, 2023 joined relatives at a birthday party for his grandmother, Kim Russell, at her home in Brunswick, Maryland.
Blake Bettis had played with Russell’s 145-pound pit bull/mastiff mix, named Cash, all afternoon, Brunswick police chief Kevin Grunwell told WTOP reporter Kyle Cooper, “but as he and his family were leaving, the dog attacked him.
“When officers arrived at the home at around 5:15 p.m., they found the boy suffering from life-threatening injuries. While being treated, he went into cardiac arrest,” Cooper explained.
“He was flown to Frederick Health Hospital but later died.”
“Attacked without warning”
Russell, who has apparently kept many pit bulls over the years, is believed to have acquired Cash from a family friend about five years ago.
“Cash attacked the child without warning,” Russell told media.
“I have two older grandchildren,” Russell added. “He’s practically grown up with them and he never bothered them – never.”
“They got along very well,” added great aunt Tammy Crawford to Sophia Barnes of NBC Washington D.C.
“We don’t know what triggered the dog”
“We don’t know what triggered the dog,” Crawford said. “We didn’t think something like this would ever happen.”
But similar incidents involving pit bulls and pit bull mixes have disfigured at least 2,950 children in the U.S. and Canada since ANIMALS 24-7 began logging the data in 1982.
At least 616 Americans and Canadians have died in attacks by pit bulls and pit bull mixes during that time.
Hardly anyone ever knows “what triggered the dog,” or thought “something like this would ever happen,” even though pit bulls have been bred for more than 500 years for hair-trigger reactivity and to kill without giving warnings first.
Jamaka Petzak says
“…Hardly anyone ever knows “what triggered the dog,” or thought “something like this would ever happen,” even though pit bulls have been bred for more than 500 years for hair-trigger reactivity and to kill without giving warnings first.”
That says it all.
Sharing, with gratitude, all of the usual thoughts and feelings, and hope, however faint, that societies will WAKE UP and BAN these killer dogs.
The Plymouth man was my friend. He was saved by Jesus and is seated in the Throne Room at the right hand of God now. To the man who is accusing the victim, the second victim of this dog, I have no words for. I pray for justice. I pray this dog never has a chance for a third Victim.