A Detroit mother says that she will never be able to forget the day four vicious dogs dragged her son from her and mauled the little 4-year-old to death, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“That will never leave my eyes,” Lucillie Strickland, who is identified as “Dolly” in some reports, said. “Never leave my mind.”
The child, Xavier Strickland, died at the hospital after the attack on Detroit’s west side on Wednesday.
Strickland, who reportedly lives around the corner from the dogs, said that the animals, identified as “pit bulls,” rushed her and her son as they were walking to volunteer at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.
Strickland fell on top of her son and was bitten on her ear, leg and back. As she was trying to stand and run, the dogs snatched her son from her and dragged him under a fence.
“They were so strong,” she recalled.
Neighbors heard her screams for help and tried to fend off the four dogs with sticks and crowbars, to no avail. It was only when police arrived and shot and killed three of the dogs that they were able to retrieve Xavier. The fourth pit bull is in quarantine.
On Thursday an autopsy conducted by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Xavier’s death an accident, caused by multiple puncture wounds.
“This is not the first incident where the dogs almost got one of her children,” Xavier's uncle, Ramone Cage, told the Free Press. The family said that just last month, Xavier’s 9-year-old sister was attacked by the same dogs.
“This is almost like déjà vu,” he said. “It just went from bad to a worse situation.”
The owner of the animals, a 41-year-old man, was arrested on Wednesday, but charges were not filed until Thursday.
According to Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department, the department has had no prior reports of attacking or biting involving those particular animals.
Nevertheless, several neighbors told the Free Press that the dogs have long terrorized the community.
Roy Hardrick, 19, told the Free Press that he saw three of the animals near his house as he was trying to leave home a few weeks ago. One was barking at him, and the other two were growling at him. “I had to wait in the house till they went past,” he told the news site.
Another resident, 67-year-old Phyllis Butler, said that people often avoided the house when walking their dogs in the neighborhood. “You never know when they're going to get out,” she said.
Officers who responded to the call were left disturbed by what they witnessed.
“The viciousness of these animals, the fact that they removed this child from the mother’s grasp and as the mother attempted to fight these dogs off, the dogs took the child and dragged the child to the location behind the fence,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig, according to Click on Detroit.
“This is no different than when our officers are dealing with armed suspects,” he added, saying that counselors would be brought in for officers.
The family started a GoFundMe page to help pay for Xavier’s funeral expenses.
“My life is just torment right now because he’s gone,” Strickland said.