Lowell residents in shock after boy dies in pit bull attack
LOWELL — A neighborhood remained shocked and grief-stricken Sunday, a day after a horrific dog attack that left a 7-year-old boy dead.
The child was mauled late Saturday afternoon after he apparently entered a fenced area where two pit bulls were kept next to a Clare Street home, according to a Saturday night statement from the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
One dog escaped but was captured and euthanized Saturday night, according to the statement. The other was taken by animal control.
Investigators will not release the boy’s name, said Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, in an e-mail Sunday. The investigation remains ongoing, and no charges have been brought, she said.
Resident David Swiniarski, 22, said he awoke Saturday after his roommate heard screaming down the street. The pair ran toward a crowd of about 15 gathered around a driveway blocked by a chain-link gate.
They were horrified by what they saw: two pit bulls dragging a boy. One had the child by his neck and one by his legs, Swiniarski said.
People screamed, but no one knew what to do, he said.
“He was already gone as soon as we got there,” Swiniarski said.
Steven Kul, 57, said he heard yelling outside his home and looked out to see the boy’s mother crying out for her child.
“My baby is dead!” Kul recalled her yelling.
On Sunday, Kul struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
“How did the kid go inside the fence?” asked Kul. “I don’t understand it.”
Roger Rodriguez, 56, said he and his girlfriend, Jean Remon, 45, were leaving for dinner before the attack and saw the boy among a group of children playing outside.
When they returned about 6:15 p.m., they could see the child’s body covered by a white sheet near a wooden fence at the far end of the driveway.
Rodriguez showed a reporter a video recorded around the time of the attack. The video was grainy, but several people could be heard crying out against the sounds of sirens blaring.
A woman — whom Rodriguez identified as the boy’s mother — could be heard wailing, “Oh, my baby!”
Remon said the girlfriend of the dogs’ owner was in tears after the death. The girlfriend had repeatedly warned children to stay away from the dogs, Remon said.
“I told them a month ago not to jump the fence,” Remon recalled the woman saying Saturday.
At the house identified by neighbors as the boy’s home, a young man who answered the door said he had been friends with the boy who had died, but declined comment.
A woman appeared by his side and also declined comment.
“There’s nothing to say about it,” she said.
Lowell’s City Council passed an ordinance regulating pit bulls in 2011, in response to a series of attacks, according to reports in the Lowell Sun. But the measure was superseded a year later by a state law prohibiting regulations on dogs that specify breed.
Police and animal control officers could not be reached for comment.
Michael Keiley, director of adoption centers for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, worked with the council to examine the attacks by pit bulls, which are popular pets in Lowell, he said Sunday.
While he stressed that he did not know the factors in Saturday’s attack, Keiley said many of the earlier pit bull attacks shared similar conditions: The animals often had been taken from mothers and littermates before they were 8 weeks old, had received little or no veterinary care, had not been spayed or neutered, and were not trained or socialized appropriately.
Keiley said pit bulls are sometimes unfairly associated with aggressiveness.
“There are wonderfully friendly pit bulls out there that don’t deserve to be regulated or to be feared just because of their breed,” he said.
Along Clare Street on Sunday, there were signs of a neighborhood grappling with tragedy. Pockets of residents gathered along the street, speaking quietly among themselves. A man riding a bicycle left a vase of red flowers by the chain-link gate.
Giovanni E. Miranda, 28, said the boy who died was friendly and frequently bicycled through the neighborhood. Miranda said he would often exchange “hellos” with the child.
The boy appeared to love animals, Miranda said. “He was always trying to pet a dog,” he said.
Miranda said he came home about 7 p.m. Saturday to find police cruisers and emergency vehicles lining the street. As he passed the home of the dogs’ owners, he saw a dark object, which his mother told him was the boy’s body. Both he and his mother wept, he said.
Miranda has a daughter about the boy’s age. He said his thoughts were for the family.
“There can’t be anything worse than to lose a 7-year-old to a dog,” he said.
Eight-year-old Kendra Rivera said she had attended school with the boy. Kendra and her mother, Anna Rivera, brought sunflowers from their garden, leaving them in a glass vase on the driveway.
Along with the flowers was a note to the boy’s mother, Kendra said.
“We hope she feels better,” Kendra said, “and our hearts are broken.”