Tulsa Animal Services, police, & media say nothing of three fatal pit bull attacks in 10 days
WATERLOO, Iowa; TULSA, Oklahoma––“Authorities are trying to determine how a beloved family pet turned into a killer, attacking a baby in a tragedy that shook the Waterloo community,” wrote Waterloo Courier reporter Jeff Reinitz on May 4, 2023.
Yet the answer would have been obvious if Reinitz had compared his own photographs of the nine-year-old dog being apprehended at the scene, named Echo, to breed identification photos of the American Pit Bull Terrier, one of the most common pit bull breed lines.
Instead Reinitz apparently took the word of animal control officers that the dog was “a neutered male boxer/hound mix.”
And Reinitz appears not to have considered that the local animal control agency itself might have rehomed the pit bull to the family of the nine-month-old victim, Navy Smith, daughter of Tyler Smith and Alyssa Root Smith.
“The child’s grandmother, age 49, was also seriously injured in the attack,” Reinitz mentioned.
The seriously injured grandmother is actually Susan Smith, mother of Tyler Smith, but a Gail Sommerfeldt, 49, is listed on some public documents as owner of the property where the attack occurred. The current owner, since 2020, is Alyssa Root Smith.
Grandmother flown for aid
After being medically stabilized locally, Reinitz reported, the grandmother “was then flown to the University of Iowa in Iowa City for further care, police said.”
“Authorities said they didn’t have any prior calls regarding the dog,” Reinitz said, but Reinitz said nothing about the origins of the dog: who rehomed the mislabeled pit bull to whom, when, and how the pit bull came into those hands.
Concealing the evidence
Not accurately disclosing the history of rehomed pit bulls is a problematic recent nationwide trend.
Not accurately identifying dogs involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks is another growing trend.
And not even acknowledging pit bull attack fatalities is another, exemplified recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Four fatal pit bull attacks in animal control manager’s first four months
Sherri Carrier, previously chief court services officer for Tulsa County, was in December 2022 named to head Tulsa Animal Welfare, the city animal control agency.
It was perhaps not Carrier’s fault, nor that of Tulsa Animal Welfare, that retired local hot dog stand owner Don Gibson, 67, was killed on March 23, 2023 while trying to break up a fight between his own two pit bulls.
But the buck stops at Carrier’s desk for nondisclosure of three more fatal pit bull attacks in the next five weeks. Four and a half months after Carrier took office, more fatal dog attacks––and pit bull attacks––had occurred on her watch than within the tenure of any U.S. animal control director ever except Mark Kumpf, an animal control chief for 30 years.
Chasing Mark Kumpf’s career record
Five dog attack fatalities occurred while Kumpf headed Montgomery County animal control in Dayton, Ohio, plus two more since he took his present position as Detroit Animal Care & Control chief in 2019.
(See Kumpf out, but new bill won’t undo harm he did to Ohio dog law, Pit bulls kill would-be rescuer in Detroit & two-year-old in Maryland and Mark Kumpf named Detroit animal control chief. Remember Klonda Richey?)
Asked ANIMALS 24-7 on April 23, 2023, “Does not acknowledging a fatal pit bull attack mean it did not happen?”
The question arose because, on April 19, 2023, ANIMALS 24-7 received information relayed through a longtime trusted confidential source that Tulsa cat feeder Glenna Blackwelder, 71, was fatally mauled a day earlier by one or more pit bulls belonging to a neighbor.
Neither Tulsa Animal Welfare nor the Tulsa Police Department nor Tulsa-area news media so much as acknowledged Blackwelder’s death until April 25, 2023, six days after the fatal pit bull attack and two days after ANIMALS 24-7 reported the details of the case.
At that, when the Tulsa authorities finally did admit that Blackwelder had been killed, they misidentified the location, citing instead an intersection three quarters of a mile away, and omitted mention that the four dogs who tore Blackwelder’s arm off and mauled her to death were pit bulls, notorious around the neighborhood and subjects of previous complaints to Tulsa Animal Welfare for running at large.
Two more Tulsa pit bull fatalities in 10 days
Only four days later, on April 29, 2023, the same trusted confidential source informed ANIMALS 24-7 of two more Tulsa pit bull attack deaths.
As with the Glenna Blackwelder death, neither of the two more recent Tulsa pit bull attack deaths have been acknowledged yet by either Tulsa Animal Welfare, the Tulsa Police Department, or local media.
Tulsa Animal Welfare did not respond to a direct inquiry from ANIMALS 24-7 on May 1, 2023, but ANIMALS 24-7 was able to confirm one of the unacknowledged pit bull mauling deaths with family of the deceased, and obtained additional information to confirm the other.
John “Pops” Hunter
One of the victims appears to have been John “Pops” Hunter, 78, said to have been killed by a family pit bull, possibly his own.
ANIMALS 24-7 was told by his daughter Becca, who had previously been bitten by the same pit bull, that Hunter was hospitalized, but died of a cardiac arrest triggered by loss of blood.
John “Pops” Hunter was on November 10, 2013 reportedly arrested after a police chase.
Hunter then led Tulsa police to the remains of Quinton Shaver, 34, victim of a drug-related murder by bludgeon, and was charged with being an accessory after the fact to Shaver’s murder.
Another man was convicted of the actual killing.
The other Tulsa pit bull attack fatality was identified to ANIMALS 24-7 as “John Reed, 55-60 years old, badly bitten near Sheridan and 36th Street North,” who after the pit bull attack “went into his house and bled to death.”
The address coordinates are at the northeast corner of a large city block adjacent to the Tulsa International Airport, southwest and across 36th Street North from Mohawk Park.
Mohawk Park is at 3,300 acres the largest public green space in Tulsa, meandering along both banks of Coal Creek and including the Tulsa Zoo.
Coal Creek extends southwest into green space that occupies most of the block where Reed was apparently killed.
The only residential properties on the block appear to be two trailer courts fronting on North 36th Street.
Tulsa Animal Welfare occupies property on the southwest corner of the same block.
A family funeral was to have been held on May 1, 2023, but was not publicly announced.
Whether the victim had anything to do with either Mohawk Park, the trailer courts, or Tulsa Animal Welfare, ANIMALS 24-7 was not able to determine.
ANIMALS 24-7 was told that John Reed is believed to have been killed by his own pit bull.
ANIMALS 24-7 was further told that the Reeds are “a tribal family that mostly avoids phones, Facebook etc., living very simply,” apparently observing the same Native American tradition of not mentioning the dead that has inhibited our investigation of several other fatal attacks on Native Americans, for instance the June 11, 2022 death of a member of the Hopi tribe in tiny, remote Hotevilla, Arizona.
About 7.3% of the population of Tulsa County are Native American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.