A man walking through an alley to a corner store near his Northeast Baltimore home was attacked and critically injured yesterday by two pit bull dogs - one of which was shot and killed by a police officer.
Robert Carter, 45, of the 3200 block of Pelham Ave. was listed in critical condition last night at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with bites to his head, neck, arms and legs, police said.
Police said that before an officer killed one of the dogs - identified as "Slick" - it had been attacking Carter "like a shark."
Neighbors on Pelham Avenue, who flooded police with 911 calls moments after the noon attack, described a horrific scene in which the victim lay helpless as the dogs ripped his clothing and continued to maul Carter as youngsters pelted the pit bulls with bricks.
One woman who called police blamed the attack on several neighborhood children, who she said whipped the dogs into a frenzy by taunting them shortly before Carter was attacked.
Several officers quickly arrived and, afraid of shooting the victim, waited for one of the dogs to rear before an officer fired a single shot from his 9 mm Glock.
The dog was fatally wounded in the upper back. The second dog ran away and was captured by animal control officers.
"The dog probably would have killed the guy," said Northeastern District Officer George A. Burgess, who fired the fatal shot. "He was attacking like a shark."
Police said both pit bulls - a breed known for their vicelike jaw strength - have been seen running through the neighborhood, and that they were responsible for a fatal attack two months ago on a puppy as it was being walked by its owner, an off-duty city officer.
Burgess said he also handled the earlier complaint, and that both dogs were turned over to Animal Control.
"I was surprised to see them back," the officer said.
Robert Anderson, director of Baltimore Animal Control, could not confirm the previous attack yesterday. He said 982 injuries from animal bites were reported last year, none of them fatal. The last death, he said, occurred in 1997 or 1998.
Police said they will turn their investigation over to the city state's attorney's office for possible criminal charges against the owner, who lives in the block but had not been located yesterday.
The owner could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Tyrone Johnson, 48, who is engaged to the victim's sister, said Carter was walking to a store through the wide alley, a popular shortcut that also is used by children, when the dogs attacked.
"The pit bull was biting him in the neck," said Johnson, who watched from his back porch. "It was a horrible thing to see."
Shirley Taylor, one of several people who called 911, said both animals were walking up and down the alley and that shortly before the attack, four youngsters took turns jumping from a fenced-in back yard to taunt the pit bulls.
"They then ran back and jumped over their fence as the dogs came after them," Taylor said. "They were trying to scare the dogs."
How the dogs got out remained a mystery yesterday. The owner was not at home, and the lock appeared secured on the pen, which is in the back yard of a rowhouse at Pelham and Mannasota avenues.
Andy Phillips, 22, a neighbor, said he sees the man often with his three pit bulls - the third is named "Ghost Face" and was apparently with its owner yesterday - in the community. He said the man allows them to run up and down the alley under his supervision.
"They usually don't get out on their own," Phillips said. "When they're with the owner, they don't bother anybody."
The captured pit bull, named "Foxy," was at Animal Control yesterday.
Anderson said his office will begin an investigation that could go to the Vicious Dog Hearing Board, which holds hearings on dog bites. The panel is appointed by the mayor and is made up of two retired police officers, two animal trainers and a veterinarian.
Board members can recommend that the dog be returned to its owner or be destroyed.