L. A. Animal Control Officer Omar Muñoz Named KNX Radio's "Hero of the Week"

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Los Angeles County Animal Control Officer Omar Muñoz was named “Hero of the Week” for November 22 to November 29 by KNX News Radio 1070. The station honored Officer Muñoz for his extraordinary concern for public safety in the performance of his duties, even after sustaining severe injuries from a dog attack.

Officer Muñoz is an eight-year veteran Animal Control Officer with L.A. County. He responded recently to a call regarding a stray Pit Bull near a park in East Los Angeles at about noon. He located the 80-lbs. black Pit Bull but did not observe it exhibiting any alarming behavior, so he approached the dog and placed a soft rope leash over its neck. The Pit Bull walked without resistance with the officer back to his truck.

Officer Muñoz lifted the dog into a compartment in his animal-control vehicle but as he reached to close the dog-compartment door, the Pit Bull suddenly growled and lunged outward at the officer. Officer Muñoz stepped back and the dog, now on the ground, did not run away but charged him and attempted to attack his legs.

Fortunately, the dog was only able to grab the officer’s pant leg on his first attempt. But the impact and pulling on his clothing knocked the officer to the ground. The dog then lunged for his throat and neck area.

When Officer Muñoz raised his right arm to protect his neck and face, the Pit Bull bit deeply into his forearm and began shaking and tearing his flesh. Officer Muñoz grabbed his Mag-Lite (flashlight) but, not wanting to injure the dog if possible, he poundedthe ground with it, making a loud noise and causing the dog to let go briefly. After the dog released his arm, it then lunged again and grabbed Officer Muñoz’ wrist in its teeth and bit him. The officer struggled to his feet and began to yell threateningly at the dog. The dog appeared startled and let go of Officer Muñoz long enough to allow him to rush to the cab of his truck and retrieve his animal-control device (also known as a “catch pole.”)

The Pit Bull started to leave and travel toward an area of the park where Officer Muñoz knew small children are usually playing. Even though he was badly injured and bleeding, Officer Muñoz said that he realized he had to try to stop the agitated dog from possibly injuring a child or any other unsuspecting person who might be in the park. He followed the dog and was finally able to coax him close enough to place the loop of the animal-control device around the dog’s neck and get the dog back to his truck, where he secured it in the vehicle.

It was then Officer Muñoz realized that his condition was worsening and that he had sustained serious wounds from the dog attack. He also became aware of the group of spectators who appeared to be gang members and who were taunting him.

Not wanting to risk further danger to himself or the animals, Officer Muñoz decided to drive to the Downey Animal Care Center to assure the truck full of dogs he had picked up in response to calls that morning were returned to the shelter safely.

Upon his arrival at the Downey shelter at about 1:00 p.m. the command staff saw the severe bite wounds and immediately placed a 911 call for paramedics. Officer Muñoz was transported by ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood then transferred to Downey Regional Hospital in Downey.

L.A. County Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Aaron Reyes, who nominated Officer Muñoz as a KNX “Hero of the Week,” said that he went to the emergency room to assure that Officer Muñoz was receiving the care he needed and to talk to the physician about the severity of the injuries the officer sustained. He was told that Officer Muñoz was being referred to a hand specialist for further evaluation due to the unknown extent of the wounds.

Officer Muñoz told him that, as the father of four children, himself, his main thoughts during this incident were that he had to insure that no child would become a victim of attack by this dog.

Deputy Director Reyes, who has three children of his own, said he was especially touched by Officer Muñoz statement to him, “Sir, I’m just glad it was me rather than a child that was bitten.”

Deputy Director Reyes told Diane Thompson of KNX News that Officer Muñoz’ courage and resolve to assure that the public would not be endangered and his self sacrifice in further risking his own safety to secure the dog under these adverse circumstances is exemplary. He said it also demonstrates the quick thinking and dedication of animal control officers, who are not armed, and put themselves in harm’s way daily in dealing with difficult, and often dangerous, situations with animals and humans and focusing on protection of both.

To hear Officer Omar Muñoz on KNX News Radio, click here:

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