Pit bull kills 7-year-old Minneapolis boy at home

  • Article by: TOM FORD and JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2007 - 5:11 PM

Father who went to his child’s aid in the basement of their home was attacked before he shot and killed the dog. Minneapolis and St. Paul have been seeking ways to deal with dog attacks.

Zachary King Jr.

Zachary King Jr. of Minneapolis was killed by dog in his basement on Thursday.

Perhaps, his loved ones can only speculate, young Zachary King Jr. had gone to get a puppy in his family's basement, where their full-grown male pit bull was chained. When the 7-year-old boy's older sister came inside to look for him Thursday afternoon, she found him badly bitten and lying on the basement floor. She ran to get their father, but it was too late.

The dog killed Zachary, who was about to enter second grade at Hope Academy, a private Christian school in Minneapolis. The pit bull, which had previously bitten other people, went for the boy's throat, police said.

The boy's father, Zachary King Sr., 30, tried to intervene but was himself attacked by the dog, which mauled his arm. The father got a gun and shot the dog to death in the family's home in the 3500 block of Humboldt Avenue N.

Other family members, including at least two of the boy's three sisters, were home during the attack, which occurred about 1 p.m. Emergency workers rushed Zachary and his father to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where the child was pronounced dead, police said.

The latest attack comes as the number of dog bites is up and as the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul try to find a way to deal with problems related to deaths and injuries caused by pit bulls and several other canine breeds.

Even before Thursday's attack, a state legislator touched off debate with his vow to try to outlaw in Minnesota five breeds of dogs, including pit bulls.

Police have yet to determine what caused the dog to turn on one of its owners.

"There needs to be a detailed investigation to get the facts of what happened here before we jump to conclusions that it's possibly a breed deal," said Tom Deegan, manager of Animal Care & Control for Minneapolis. "They need to have some behaviorists and experts look at what happened."

The boy's grandfather, Robert Lee King Jr. of Minneapolis, said he arrived at the family's two-story house in the Folwell neighborhood after getting a hysterical call on his cell phone from the boy's aunt. The grandfather got there just as Zachary was being loaded into an ambulance.

Robert King said the male pit bull, whose name was Face, was most often kept in the basement.

"I didn't trust that dog," he said, adding that the dog acted quite aggressively toward others and was a big reason he didn't often visit the home.

The boy's family also has a female pit bull that family members and neighbors said seemed more friendly and was allowed to move around the house. The pit bulls recently had a litter of five puppies that Zachary and his sisters liked to play with outside.

Robin King, Zachary's aunt, said family members who were home when the attack happened told her that the boy had been playing outside when he came in and went downstairs, perhaps to play with the puppies. After his sister found him, she rushed upstairs to wake her father and he bolted to the basement.

Police Lt. Amelia Huffman said investigators were piecing together the chain of events, including whether the dog was still attacking the child when his father tried to help him and whether the attack on the boy continued while the father went to get a gun.

Animal Care & Control has two recorded contacts with the family about the male pit bull, officials said.

In 2005, the dog bit a trespasser on the family's property. That's considered a provoked bite, Deegan said, which would not lead to any official action. In 2006, the dog left the family's property and bit a man. Although that bite was minor, animal-control officers warned the Kings that any further incidents could lead to the dog being declared dangerous.

Still, the dog did not meet the criteria to be deemed potentially dangerous, Deegan said.

The ordinances are quite specific, he said. Once a dog is declared dangerous, the city restricts how it can be exposed to the public. That includes requiring muzzles and 3-foot leashes in public, as well as fencing and kennel requirements for yards, Deegan said. In this case, the family was doing what would have been acceptable, even if the dog had been previously deemed dangerous, he said.

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