Thursday, September 29, 2011

Police fire at, possibly wound dog that attacked woman at Brookside School

Once again, dog eludes capture by police

By David Weingrad and Scott Brinton, from Long Island Herald

A pit bull that mauled 64-year-old Shashi Sharma last Thursday at the Brookside School in North Merrick, digging its teeth into her arms, legs and head, eluded capture as police closed in on the animal in North Merrick on Tuesday.

Nassau County police officers fired at and possibly wounded the dog, but it ran off and was not found as of press time. Officials described the pit bull as brown and white, and said to stay away from the animal and call 911 immediately if it is spotted.

The dog, which was found in the area of Ott Lane, just north of the Southern State Parkway, around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, escaped into nearby woods along the parkway, causing police to lock down nearby Fayette Elementary School, the Sacred Heart School and the Brookside School. Police cordoned off the area around Ott Lane where the animal was believed to be hiding. Police searched extensively in the woods between the westbound entrance to the Southern State Parkway and Ott Lane, just off Meadowbrook Road.

Police taped off Ott Lane and blocked the entrance to the Southern State Parkway while the search was under way. Two helicopters circled overhead.

Initially, police said they were attempting to push the dog out of the woods onto Ott Lane, where they would shoot it on sight. At one point, they urged all reporters and bystanders to get back so they could extend the barricaded area. About five officers searched the woods, all armed with rifles. At 4:30 p.m., the search was officially called off, and police reopened the entrance to the parkway.

There were eyewitness reports that up to 10 gunshots were heard in the vicinity of Ott Lane during the early afternoon, but police would not confirm those reports.

Nassau County Police searched throughout the weekend for the pit bull that attacked Sharma on Sept. 29 around 11 a.m., but the widespread search failed to turn up the animal. It was one of two pit bulls involved in the mauling. Police shot the other one dead on Thursday.

Claudia Borecky, president of the North Merrick Community Civic Association, who is running for Hempstead Town Board, said the loose pit bull was seen by a member of the North Merrick Neighborhood Watch at 5 p.m. on Monday in the vicinity of South Drive in North Merrick. The dog was also reportedly spotted on North Drive in North Merrick around 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

At press time on Tuesday, officials in both the North Merrick and North Bellmore school districts said they were keeping children inside during recess until police say the dog has been caught.

The two pit bulls, which were spotted by a surveillance camera wandering around the Brookside School campus, inexplicably attacked Sharma near a Nassau County senior center on the north side of the school, as Sharma was returning to her car after walking on the track there.

Sharma was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where, at press time, she remained in critical, but stable condition in the intensive care unit, said Shelly Lotenberg, a hospital spokeswoman.

There was no word on who the dogs' owner might be.

The Brookside School serves as the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s administrative office. It was closed on Thursday for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, when the attack occurred, though the senior center at the school was open. A number of youth groups and Central District teams practice at Brookside’s fields in the afternoon. The Central District cancelled all practices at the school until further notice.

A witness at the scene described the attack as horrific, saying the dogs tore skin off the woman. Smith said the victim suffered severe wounds to her left arm and legs, as well as cuts on her head and face.

The woman called 911 from her cell phone. When police arrived at the Brookside School, the pit bulls were still attacking. According to Smith, the dogs began to approach the officers, ready to pounce. After police fired their guns at one dog, killing it, the other ran off.

Ten police cars, along with New York State Trooper and Town of Hempstead Animal Control units, were circling the area around the Brookside School’s athletic fields, and a police helicopter was flying overhead on Thursday.

Borecky said she received an email from a member of the North Merrick Community Civic Association about a pit bull attack earlier on Thursday, around 2: 45 a.m. The email went, "Just wanted to let you know around an hour ago my husband heard yelling and dogs barking, so he went to see what was going on and called 911. An older man was riding his bicycle when he was attacked by two pit bulls. This happened on William Street between Richard Avenue and Maeder Avenue. Several police cars and trucks were back and forth in the area trying to capture the dogs. I just pray that they get them and that the man is OK."

On Tuesday, police cars and a police helicopter were seen in North Merrick, searching for the missing pit bull.

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