Lucille Strickland’s 9-year-old daughter had been attacked by a neighbor’s pit bulls before. She wasn’t badly hurt, but the incident shook Lucille. A month later, the mother of seven watched as four of those same dogs ripped her 4-year-old son from her arms and mauled the boy before her eyes.
The child, named Xavier, later perished at the hospital despite doctors’ efforts to save the toddler. He died of multiple puncture wounds and now the owner of the pit bulls has been arrested and charged with negligent homicide.
“That will never leave my eyes,” Strickland, 33, told The Detroit Free Press. “Never leave my mind. They were so strong. They just snatched him.”
Xavier was mauled to death around noon on Wednesday as he and his mother walked to the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School nearby, where she volunteers. The pit bulls live around the corner from the Strickland house and other neighbors had reported the pit bulls barking and growling at them in the past, including children as they walked home from school.
But on this day, the pit bulls escaped from their backyard through a “significant” gap in the fence, police officer Jennifer Moreno told The Detroit News.
“When I saw them, I started running.” Strickland explained to WJBK. “But both of the big dogs grabbed each one of my legs.”
She tried to kick them off and went for her child to keep him from being mauled, taking her son by the arms to protect him. But one of the pit bulls grabbed at her ankle, and she kicked some more. At one point, she fell on top of her child to protect him from the attack and was bit on her ear, leg, and back. It was when she tried to get up that the pit bulls snatched Xavier away.
“They pulled him from me and (dragged) him under the fence. They just ate him.”
The young mother watched in horror as the pit bulls mauled her little boy and neighbors soon heard her screaming. They rushed to her side and then tried to fight off the pit bulls with sticks and crow bars. It was too late. Neighbor Yolanda Samuels, who called 911, described the horrific scene to Click On Detroit.
“The dog had grabbed the baby and pulled the baby underneath the fence. When I saw them carrying her baby, all I could do was just grab my baby and say, “Oh, my God. He’s lifeless.”
When police arrived, they shot and killed three pit bulls. A fourth is in quarantine. Lucille said the dog who was on top of her son had to be shot repeatedly. The four pit bulls were a father, mother, and two pups and all are believed to have mauled Xavier.
The police who responded have had to undergo counseling after seeing the boy mauled to death.
“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.
The owner of the pit bulls who mauled Xavier is an unnamed, 41-year-old man who is currently in police custody and being cooperative. News reports have varied on the charges he is, or will be facing, with some reporting that none had been specified and others specifying that he’s been charged with negligent homicide. Police believe he didn’t care properly for the dogs, which could explain, in part, why they mauled a child.
The Detroit Health Department executive director, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, blamed the owner as well, saying that anyone who owns a dog must “make sure their dogs are protected from ever being involved in something like this and protecting other people’s children. Because (Xavier) is everybody’s child. If it takes a village to raise a child, this happened in our village.”
Xavier is remembered for his smile, loving cartoons, playing with trucks, being smart and being rather small for his age.
“My life is just torment right now because he’s gone,” his mother said.
[Photo By Rita Kochmarjova / Shutterstock]