Tuesday, July 20, 2010

1 dead, 3 hurt in Memphis pit bull attack

From Chattanooga Times Free Press

An elderly Memphis man died Tuesday after two pit bull attacks that also injured three people, including two fire department workers. Memphis Fire Department crews were called to the scene of the dog attack at about noon Tuesday in a neighborhood near Memphis' downtown.
A 71-year-old man was in cardiac arrest and suffering from severe bites after two pit bulls attacked him. Battalion Chief Keith Staples said the man died at a nearby hospital, though it was not immediately clear how he died.
Crews also found a 25-year-old woman with dog bites. Police said she was in critical condition. It was not clear if the man and woman were related, and their names were not available late Tuesday.
A paramedic and a fire lieutenant also were bitten by the same dogs at the scene. Fire Lt. Ray Pelletier was bitten on the lower leg, and paramedic Ken Hartfield was bitten on the abdomen and lower leg. They were taken to a hospital with non-critical injuries, Staples said.
It's not clear where the dogs came from. They have been captured.
Memphis law requires that dangerous or vicious animals be kept confined on a leash and muzzle, in an outdoor pen or kennel, or indoors.

Update July 20, 2010 6:57pm - The following article is by Shane Myers, My Eyewitness News:

1 Dead, 4 Injured in Pit Bull Attack in Downtown Memphis

Memphis police say an elderly man is dead and his daughter is in critical condition after a pit bull attack that also injured two firefighters.

According to police, officers were called to 230 North Manassas Street around noon, Tuesday, July 20, 2010, about an elderly man who was attacked by a pit bull dog. When police arrived, they discovered the elderly man and a woman, the man’s daughter, who had been attacked by two pit bulls.

Police say when Memphis Fire Department paramedics tried to treat the victims, the dogs attacked the paramedics as well.

The elderly man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His daughter was taken in critical condition. The two firefighters are in non-critical. Police say a fifth victim showed up at a hospital to be treated for dog bite wounds.

Stay with myEyewitnessNews.com for the latest on this situation.


Update July 20, 2010 8:08pm - The following article is by Tom Powell, WREG:
Daughter Tries to Save Dad During Pit Bull Attack

  • 71-year-old killed in attack
  • Daughter tried to fight dogs off with a beer bottle
  • She was also injured and taken to the hospital
Gardenia Parker holds a picture of her father, 71-year-old William Parker, as she talks about how she tried to save his life. "I just kept screaming, 'Daddy please don't leave me'," she says.

William Parker was walking down Manassas to a convenience store in the Medical District, when he was attacked by two pit bulls. He was taken down in a field neighbors use all the time as a cut-through to get from Manassas to Poplar. Parker's daughter says someone came to her door to say her dad was in trouble.

She ran to the field to help. She grabbed a stick and a beer bottle, hitting the dogs on the head to get them to loosen their grip on her father. "I was kicking them off of him, and that's when they started attacking me," she says.

She suffered a broken elbow and several puncture wounds to her legs and arms.

Kevin Stringfellow, a neighbor who saw what was happening, also tried to help, but the dogs bit him as well. He walked to a nearby bail bonding company for help. His relatives tell us he had bite wounds on his arms, and he lost a finger in the attack. At last check he was listed in good condition at the MED.

Two MFD paramedics were also injured in the process. They've both been released from the hospital.

William Parker was married to his wife Bessie for 50 years. She sat outside their house Tuesday night, surrounded by close friends and family as they reminisced about William. "I'm hurt," she says. "One moment someone is there, and the next moment they're gone."

Update July 20, 2010 9:25pm - The following article is by Joyce Peterson, Eye Witness News:

Victims Families Blame Memphis Police for Deadly Pit Bull Attack

Two pit bulls terrorized a Memphis neighborhood on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, killing an elderly man and wounding four other people.  Two of the survivors were critically injured in the attacks.  And the victims' families aren't just blaming the owner of the dogs, they're blaming Memphis Police for the tragedy.

Bessie Parker's 71-year-old husband, William, was mauled by the dogs as he cut through a wooded area near his home to go to the corner store near Manassas and Poplar Avenue.

Investigators say it appears that Mr. Parker suffered a heart attack as the pits bit down with their breed's powerful jaws and "hold and shake" bite style, refusing to release him even when others tried to intervene.

"Yeah," Mrs. Parker says with anger, "you're going to have a heart attack when something is biting on you.  I won't let Memphis, Tennessee regret this here about my husband.  I mean that!"

Mrs. Parker and her neighbors are furious.  They tell myEyewitnessNews.com that they called Memphis Police over the weekend to complain about those same dogs.

"I think this could have prevented," says Virginia Taylor, "if the police had taken the dogs when we called Sunday.  Because they know the dogs are vicious.  I told them they were vicious.  I said the dogs are going to bite somebody or kill somebody.  But they just talked to the guy and gave him a citation instead of calling the dog catcher to come get the dog."

"How vicious are they?" says neighbor Darlene Anderson when asked to describe the dogs' behavior before the deadly attacks.  "Vicious enough to make your a** jump up and run.  You want to stay stuck in the house, too scared to come outside, that's how vicious they are."

Before killing Mr. Parker, the pits attacked Darryl Stringfellow's brother, Kevin, as he tried to come to the old man's rescue.

"He got bit like 30 to 40 times," says Stringfellow of his brother's injuries.  "He got bit in the head, legs, arms, everywhere.  Had to use a bottle to beat them off.  He's probably going to need surgery.  If I would have been out there, I would have shot the dogs, point blank."

Investigators say the dogs also went after two emergency responders tending to Mr. Parker.  Their injuries are non-critical.  But Mr. Parker's daughter, Gardenia, isn't so lucky.  The pits critically wounded her as she tried to save her father's life.

It was unclear late Tuesday if the MPD ever contacted the Memphis Animal Shelter about the earlier complaints.   Mayor A C Wharton's office denied Eyewitness News cameras access to the dogs and forbid shelter director Matt Pepper from explaining to reporters what happens next in this process.  Pepper would only say the dogs are being held for rabies observation.

Instead, the mayor's staff directed all inquiries to the MPD, where a spokesperson said pictures of the animals were not available, nor was the name of the dogs' owner.  Police were also unable to confirm that officers had responded to a call of vicious dogs in that neighborhood over the weekend.

While officials aren't saying much, those who cared about William Parker and the other victims, have plenty to say.

"That could have been prevented," says Virginia Taylor.  "I think it's a crying shame.  It's something that didn't have to happen."

"I feel mad and hurt," says Bessie Parker, who was married to her husband for 50 years.  "I am really hurt.  Because I just saw my husband laying up there on a slab.  So I'd like to say to the police they need to do their d**n job!"

The dogs' owner wasn't around for Tuesday's carnage because he was picked up earlier in the week as a wanted sex offender.   Neighbors say the man's girlfriend let the dogs outside because she was afraid they'd attack her in the house.

According to DogsBite.org, pit bulls were responsible for 59% of all deadly attacks be between 2006 and 2008.  More than 500 U.S. cities have passed laws banning or restricting pit bull ownership.   The effort to ban pits in Memphis has repeatedly failed in the Memphis City Council.


Update July 21, 2010 7:06pm - The following article is by Tealy Devereaux, My FOX Memphis:
Another Victim Said Attacks Could Have Been Stopped

"If they would have stopped the dogs on me, that man would still have been alive."
Kevin Stringfellow chokes back tears thinking about what could have been. He said the same two pit bulls that attacked 71-year-old William Parker in a vacant lot on Manassas Tuesday came after him about 30 minutes before they attacked Parker.

"This is the worst arm right here," he said while pointing out his injuries.
Stringfellow spent a night at the Med and wasn't released until Wednesday afternoon. He has 52 bites to one arm and claims the girlfriend of the dogs' owner watched him get bitten by the loose pit bulls.

"I'm hollering for help, she didn't help me," he said.
Stringfellow said the woman ignored his cries for help and went back into the apartment where her boyfriend and his dogs live. The apartment is just across from the lot where Parker, his daughter, and two paramedics were attacked. Stringfellow got away by fending the dogs off with a bottle he found on the ground.

"If it hadn't have been for the bottle, I would be in trouble."

The apartment was left open until Wednesday afternoon. That's when our cameras caught a man and woman going in which may have been the first time since the attacks.

A woman who identified herself as Samantha said she was coming to get stuff before it was stolen and said she was a friend. She locked the door before leaving.

Meanwhile, the dog's owner, Bernard Humphrey is behind bars and hasn't been home since Sunday. Police responded to a loose dog call around 10 that night, checked Humphrey for warrants, and then arrested him.
They said he's a sex offender who violated his registry rules.

Update July 21, 2010 7:34pm - The following article is by Jeni DiPrizio, My Eyewitness News:

Wife Talks About Pit Bull Attack That Killed Her Husband

William Parker
Police still have not charged anyone connected to a deadly pit bull attack. William Parker, 71, died after two pit bulls attacked him while he was walking home from the store. His wife, Bessie, says her husband had a heart attack while being attacked by the dogs.

Memphis police have confirmed an officer was called to the apartment complex where the attack happened on July 18, 2010. The officer responded to a “dogs on the loose” call. Police say the viscous dogs had a person trapped inside a car. A spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department said animal control was never called to pick up the dogs because the owner was able to get the dogs back in the apartment.

The dogs belong to Bernard Humphrey. When police responded to the dog call, they discovered Humphrey was a sex offender who failed to register his new address. Humphrey was arrested for violating the sex offender registry law and the dogs were left at the apartment.

In addition to Parker, four others were injured. One was Gardenia Parker. She was attacked trying to save her father. “These little cuts and bruises is nothing. I can get over that part. I can’t get over losing my daddy,” said Parker. “I ain’t ever going to get my daddy back. I think justice needs to be done.”

Bessie Parker thinks Humphrey needs to be criminally charged. “The way I feel right now, they could give him the death penalty because he killed my husband,” said Parker, “I miss my husband. I can’t bring him back.”

The dogs are now at the animal shelter under quarantine.

The Parker’s had been together for more than fifty years. Bessie Parker now has to come up with the money needed to bury her husband. The couple had no insurance. Parker said, “I try to be strong for my daughter and my grand baby, this is all I got left now.”

Update July 22, 2010 12:15pm - The following article is from Fire Rescue 1:

Tenn. firefighter fights off pit bulls with spine board

Lt. Ray Pelletier and his partner were trying to save a man who was being attacked by two pit bulls when they themselves became targets

A fire lieutenant injured responding to a pit bull attack used a spine board in an attempt to fend off the animals.
Lt. Ray Pelletier and his partner were trying to save a man who was being attacked by two pit bulls when they themselves became targets, according to WREG.
"It was something I'll never forget," he said.
"Everybody on the scene is yelling and screaming and at that point in time my back was kind of to the apartments."
"I turn around and I see two dogs running toward us."
Despite the efforts to fend off the animals with their EMS equipment, the dogs managed to bite and bruise the responders, sending them back to their ambulance in retreat until police arrived.
The 71-year-old man, Willie Parker, was already in cardiac arrest when the firefighters arrived and died as a result of the incident.
The two firefighters were hospitalized as a result of their injuries and have since been released.


Update July 22, 2010 4:26pm - The following article is The Commercial Appeal:

Woman charged with reckless homicide in Tuesday's pit bull attacks

Police today charged a 23-year-old woman with reckless homicide and four counts of felony reckless endangerment after attacks by two pit bulls Tuesday in which one man died and four other people suffered dog bites.
Sherry Wooten
Sherry Wooten released the dogs from an apartment at 236 N. Manassas “knowing they were vicious in nature,” police said.
William Parker, 71, was on the ground after the attacks shortly after noon in a grassy lot near Poplar and Manassas. His daughter, a neighbor and two Memphis Fire Department workers were bitten while trying to help him.
Police also had been called to 236 N. Manassas on Sunday because the dogs running loose. By the times officers arrived, the dogs were secure in the residence, police reported. But the alleged dog owner, Bernard Humphrey, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violation of the Sex Offender Registry.

Update July 24, 2010 12:32pm - The following article is by Janice Broach, WLBT:

Boyfriend says woman not at fault in deadly pit bull attack

The woman charged with reckless homicide in connection with a deadly pit bull attack is close to giving birth.

Sherry Wooten sat behind bars Friday, charged with negligent homicide in the death of 71-year-old William Parker.

Andre Humphrey, Wooten's boyfriend, said his brother, Bernard, did not own the dogs.  Bernard Humphrey was arrested Sunday for failing to update his information on the sex offender registry.

Police came to the apartment complex in the medical district Sunday on a dogs loose call.

"The dogs broke free from a pole," said Andre Humphrey.

On Tuesday, someone let the dogs loose.  Police said Wooten did it.

"She got somebody to get the dogs," Andre Humphrey said, "because Sherry is scared to death of dogs."

He said Wooten paid someone off the street to let the dogs out because a neighbor was complaining about them.  Humphrey said he did not know who.

"You can pay somebody on the street," Andre Humphrey said.

Humphrey said the dogs belonged to his brother's ex-girlfriend and the apartment is in her name.  He said the dogs were not vicious.

Humphrey said his brother's ex-girlfriend should be the one charged.

"They're your dogs," he said.  "That is your apartment.  You need to take responsibility for it."

So far, Wooten is the only one charged.

Update July 24, 2010 12:47pm - The following article is by Stephanie Scurlock, WREG:

Family Holds Memorial For Dog Attack Victim

Daughter: "I can't come back this way again"

  • Family of man killed by pit bulls returns to field to remember him
  • Community Organizers clear away brush in field
  • Woman charged remains in jail
A vacant lot where two pit bulls mauled a North Memphis man to death is transformed into a memorial for him. The attack happened Tuesday in the 200 block of Manassas near Downtown Memphis. The man and his daughter were taking a short cut to the store when the dogs attacked. His family and friends returned to the field to remember him today.

Flowers, cards and teddy bears are now posted on what some call a tree of hope. They're hopeful even in the sight of tragedy. 71 year old William Parker died after two pit bulls attacked him and his daughter as they walked through the field. This weekend she returned to field with her family. She says this is her last trip.

"It was horrible. I'll never be this way again. That's why I'm doing this now. I can't come back this way again because I know I lost my daddy here," said Gardenia Parker, victim's daughter.

The dogs also attacked Gardenia as she tried to fight them off her father. They attacked two paramedics who showed up to help. Hours earlier they had also attacked another man, neighbor Kevin Stringfellow, as he walked the same path.

"This could have been prevented I believe. It could have been prevented because they say that dog had bitten some people before he bit them. It looks like they should have took that dog then, took them dogs in then," said Willie Taylor, victim's brother-in-law.

Organizers of this event aren't sure who owns the property but they are determined to knock down the brush that possibly shielded the dogs before the attacks.

"People are afraid to come out, just in their minds, because they don't know where dogs might be roaming around," said Georgia King, community organizer.

Meanwhile, the wife of Willie Parker held her daughter close and she said a prayer by the tree.

Bessie Parker prayed, "Please sir father, help me. Help me to understand why these people would let these dogs out."

She added, "I'll be back and stand by this tree and remember my husband that day."

23 year old Sherry Wooten is in the Shelby County jail being held on a $50,000 bond. She is charged with Reckless Homicide and 4 counts of Reckless Endangerment. Police say she let the pit bulls out knowing they were vicious.

Update August 6, 2010 8:37pm - The following article is by Joyce Peterson, My Eyewitness News:
Killer Pit Bulls Euthanized; Victim's Family Fights for Tougher Dog Laws in Memphis

Making owners of vicious dogs pay big fines and serve serious jail time.  The Memphis City Council takes up the issue of vicious and stray dogs on Tuesday, and the ultimate goal for the council's chairman is stiffer penalties for those who put other lives in danger.

Mayor A C Wharton's administration wants to fast track some tough new rules in the wake of 71-year-old William Parker's death last month.  Parker was killed on July 20th by two loose pit bulls while walking to the corner store. 

Mr. Parker's widow, Bessie, and his daughter, Gardenia, hope his death is the wake up call Memphis needs to put some teeth into its vicious dog laws.   The two dogs that attacked Mr. Parker were just put down this week.  And now the Parker family says it's time for city leaders to lay down the law.

"I don't want it to happen to no one else," says Mrs. Parker.  "The council really should have more strict laws about these vicious animals."

Parker buried her husband less than a week ago.  Her pain the day of the funeral is still just as raw.  Her insistence that local lawmakers finally crack down on irresponsible dog owners is steadfast.

"Don't wait and say you're going to do it tomorrow," she says.  "Do it today!  Because, if they had done it here, my husband would have been alive."

Gardenia Parker, her arm still in a sling, elbow broken, with bite marks all over her body, showed myEyewitnessNews.com the thin leashes, chewed apart in several places, that were supposed to restrain the two pit bulls that attacked her and her father.  Leash and registration laws, she says, aren't enough to protect people.  Her father's death, she says, is proof.

"That should wake up a lot people," she says, "you know what I'm saying?  One man died.  Another person got attacked.  That should wake up a lot of people and let them know we should do something about these dogs."

Mayor Wharton's office has proposed a dog bounty:  $25 to $50 bucks a head for every stray turned in to the city.   His administration also says increasing the number of dog catchers will help, but that plan comes with a price tag.   City hall also favors mandatory micro-chipping of pets.

The Memphis City Council will consider various spaying and neutering ordinances next week.  But the head of the council says those ordinances, even if passed, won't have enough bite.

Council Chairman Harold Collins tells myEyewitnessNews.com, "we want something that will hold irresponsible dog owners responsible."  But, he says, the city needs the county's help to make that happen.

"I anticipate asking the Shelby County Commission to pass a county ordinance," says Collins.  "Because the only penalty the city can enforce if someone violates a city ordinance is a $50 fine.  The county penalty is much tougher.  It would include jail time and up to a $2,500 fine.  And it can be amended to state law."

For Mrs. Parker and Gardenia, it's time for lawmakers to stop talking and time for them to take a bite out of the vicious dog crime that continues to terrorize the citizens of the Bluff City.

"This is what the council needs to realize," says Bessie Parker.  "You've got to make these people be responsible."

"Put yourself in my shoes," says Gardenia, now left to raise her 8-year-old daughter without the girl's beloved grandfather William around.  "How would you feel if you lost a loved one to a vicious animal like that?  That's what I want them to do.  Put yourself in my shoes.  That's all."

The Parker family is still struggling to pay funeral and medical expenses.  A fund has been established at Bank of America in William Parker's name. For those who would like to make a donation, you can visit any branch.

The dogs' owner, Bernard Humphrey, was in jail on sex offender charges the day of the attacks.  His brother's girlfriend, Sherry Wooten, was charged with negligent homicide for letting the dogs loose.

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