A 59-year-old man who was attacked by four Pit Bulls at a southwest Modesto, California, home while defending his mother has died from multiple bites “from head to foot,” sheriff's officials said on Wednesday.
Juan Fernandez, 59, had been arguing for at least a month with his next-door neighbors to try to get them to better secure the four Pit Bulls in their yard, other neighbors said. He was worried about the safety of his mother, Maria Fernandez, KCRA reports.
The devoted son’s worst nightmare occurred on Tuesday, October 15, when all four of the dogs managed to dig under the common fence which separated the two properties, according to Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson .
The attack on Fernandez and his mother by the Pit Bulls took place just after 5:45 p.m. at their home in the 800 block of Glenn Avenue, Sheriff Christianson said.
Numerous 911 calls from local residents who were witnessing the attack flooded the phone lines.
Neighbors told KCRA that the Pit Bulls were about one year of age and had just recently become increasingly violent and aggressive.
Deputies arrived to find three pit bulls "viciously mauling" the man in the backyard of his home, the Sheriff said, while a fourth dog circled the helpless victim.
Fernandez was unconscious and, totally unable to defend himself against the relentless assault by the dogs, authorities said.
"We've seen bites involving pit bulls before," Christianson told CBS San Francisco. "But never four dogs on a single human being to the point that the victim in this case was unconscious and unresponsive."
Fearing for the man's life , deputies shot and killed two of the dogs. The other two dogs ran into a nearby yard. Deputies then set up a perimeter surrounding them.
Deputies located the badly mauled mother, Maria, in a guest house behind the main house which is used as a rental, the tenant told KCRA reporters.
Both victims were transported to the hospital, where Maria remains in critical condition, the Sheriff stated. Deputies stayed to help with the capture of the remaining two Pit Bulls.
However, the agitated dogs then charged the officers and they were forced to shoot and kill them for officer and public safety.
Sheriff Chistianson said that the dog’s owners have not been arrested but have been identified. They could face charges if there is evidence that they knew or suspected strongly that the dogs were dangerous and, knowing that, failed to properly confine them. Stanislaus County Animal Control is checking to see if there are records of previous incidents in regard to the dogs.
"There is still a lot of work to do," he said. "We have to be able to finish the investigation to determine what happened that led up to this tragedy."