LAS CRUCES, NM – A 16-month-old baby girl died at El Paso hospital on Tuesday, May 9, after being mauled by a two-year-old Pit Bull in the backyard of her grandparents' home.
Latest news by KTSM.TV confirms that the dog that mauled and killed little Jazilyn Mesa was the family's pet Pit Bull, and the baby's grandmother, Leticia Mesa was watching the baby girl. Ms. Mesa told an NC9 reporter she left Jazilyn alone for a moment and almost instantly, the dog attacked the infant. The grandmother ran into the backyard and tried to pull the Pit Bull off the baby while she screamed for help.
The 52-year-old grandmother was shot in the leg by a neighbor who heard her cries for help and was trying to stop the Pit Bull from attacking the woman and the child. Both the toddler and her grandmother were transported to the hospital. The child received multiple wounds to her head and chest. Las Cruces Police Spokesman Dan Trujillo said. She was pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon.
Neighbors said they first knew about the attack when they heard six to eight gunshots just before 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday,. A 69-year-old neighbor heard the grandmother’s cries for help as she tried to stop the Pit Bull from mauling the little girl and, after calling 911, he retrieved his .45-caliber handgun from inside his house and went to help the two victims.
Police report that the neighbor fired several rounds before killing the dog and one bullet struck the grandmother in the leg.. The neighbor then followed the Pit Bull and fatally shot it near the side of the house.
Family members would not talk to reporters right after the incident, according to the Almagordo Daily News,, but County Assessor's Office records show the house at 819 Stone Canyon Drive is owned by Arthur and Leticia Mesa.
One neighbor stated, “The little girl I know was the apple of her grandfather's eye.”
Another neighbor, Chris Wollard, says he heard the commotion and gunshots about 100 yards away from his house. "It sounded like birds fighting, and then I heard these loud noises. It sounded like something falling against concrete," said Wollard, who was taking his dogs outside in his backyard at the time.
Wollard told reporters he ran over to help, and when he looked into the backyard of the home, at first he couldn’t see anything but he heard someone calling for help. He toldkvia.com, 'I found the lady under the trampoline, they have a trampoline that's buried in the yard. It's hard to remember, there was so much commotion under the trampoline. I was concerned that the baby wasn't breathing.”
Wollard said, 'I'm a respiratory therapist so that was my concern, to make sure she had a good airway and was stable and was ready for the paramedics to come and take care of her.” He said he immediately took the child from the frantic grandmother, and rushed her to the front of the house where he laid her down on the sidewalk and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until paramedics arrived moments later.
Wollard said the girl's breathing was shallow, and she was fading in and out of consciousness. The child was also badly wounded and had numerous bite marks. She had stopped breathing before he began CPR, Wollard said, “She was in pretty bad shape."
Las Cruces Fire and Rescue personnel arrived and provided immediate emergency first aid to the toddler and grandmother before rushing them to the hospital.
Police detectives interviewed neighbors and gathered evidence but did not file any criminal charges Tuesday. Detectives report they are still investigating the incident.
There was no indication of whether the Pit Bull had shown aggressive patterns with the family, according to the NC9 report, but everyone in the neighborhood was afraid of that dog, said Jose Gomez.
Gomez said he was working in his garage when the tragic incident occurred. "I didn't hear the firing or anything because I have the radio," said Gomez. "It's impossible to believe such thinks like that happened. It’s just really sad. It really hurts my heart."
Although he didn’t know the family personally, Gomez said he saw the Pit Bull being walked a few days before the attack and the aggression demonstrated by the dog at the time was alarming. "Well, he was coming after me when I picked up the paper and he had to hold him and then he took off with the dog," said Gomez.
Animal Control officers took the pit bull to the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley. The dog will be transported to Albuquerque for a necropsy, or post-mortem exam, Detective Trujillo said.
An NC9 reporter talked to the uncle of the victim on Wednesday. He said the parents were unavailable because they were out preparing for the baby's funeral. NC9 also reports that the grandmother was on her way back home from the hospital, where she was treated for the gunshot wound and dog bites, neither of which was life-threatening.
Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, director of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley, blamed the incident on the fact that the grandmother left the child alone with the dog in the backyard. However, the most recent report, according to the grandmother, indicates she merely left to walk in the house and the dog attacked the child within seconds.
"Young children need to be supervised when they're around pets," said Vesco-Mock, who said that dogs can react, sometimes negatively, when children make sudden movements or behaviors around them.
"It does not mean the dog is vicious, or a bad dog--there is no such thing as a bad dog--but you have to be responsible with your children," Vesco-Mock said. .
Vesco-Mock said she opposes breed-specific legislation because it “unfairly targets the breed.”