A little girl was killed after being attacked by three dogs while riding her bike near her family’s Michigan home in a tragedy her father said could have been avoided.
Emma Valentina Hernandez was in an alley near Central Avenue and Smart Street in southwest Detroit Monday when three pit bulls belonging to her neighbor dragged her to the ground and began mauling her neck, witnesses told WXYZ-TV.
Those in the area quickly came to the 9-year-old child’s aid after hearing her screams.
“I went and grabbed a brick and threw it right at the dogs,” witness Edward Cruz told the television station. “They all ran and I stood next to the girl to make sure she was OK, and I yelled out for help.”
Another neighbor began CPR while Emma’s father tried to stop the bleeding from her neck before emergency responders rushed the little girl to Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“Just, I’m speechless,” Emma’s father, Armando Hernandez, told Detroit radio station WWJ. “There’s no words. I feel so empty.”
One of the dogs was shot in an effort to stop its attack on Emma, while the other two were captured and taken by animal control, according to police. The dogs had long been a source of contention for those who lived nearby, according to Emma’s father.
“We had an argument about it just last week and he just didn’t take care of his dogs properly,” Hernandez said. “He could have prevented this.”
Hernandez said he believed the fence meant to keep the dogs inside of their owner’s property was not strong enough to hold them back. It was one of many issues he had with the care the dogs allegedly received.
“The dogs stayed there loose, wild and the guy didn’t feed them,” Hernandez told WWJ. “The poor dogs, you know, I don’t blame them.”
The dogs’ owner was arrested and remains in custody. Prosecutors will determine what charges, if any, he will face.
“This owner of these dogs should be held accountable,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters Tuesday. “This tragedy should not have happened.”
Emma was remembered as a bright and energetic child who was dedicated to doing her best in school and for being there for those she loved.
“She was such a smart and silly girl,” her family wrote on a GoFundMe page. “Loved to be outdoors and play with her cousins. A beautiful soul inside and out.”
The page was created to help pay for Emma’s funeral, as her family had not anticipated having to fund such a service for a little girl in the prime of her life.
“We are all devastated by Emma’s loss and were not prepared for the high cost of a funeral service,” her family said. “We want to give Emma the memorial she deserves, to honor her memory and say our last goodbyes.”
The page had raised more than $48,000 as of Wednesday.