Detroit, MI – A nine-year-old Detroit girl was fatally attacked by a pack of dogs while she was playing outside on Monday night and the dogs’ owner has been charged with murder.
Emma Hernandez was riding her bike in the alley near Smart Street and Central Avenue when three pit bulls escaped from a nearby yard, WDIV reported.
Two of her neighbors saw the little girl being mauled to death, and rushed in to try to save her.
“I went and grabbed a brick and threw it right at the dog,” Edward Cruz said according to WXIN. “They all ran and I stood next to the girl to make sure she was OK and I yelled out for help.”
Another neighbor shot one of the dogs.
Emma was lying on her back with gaping bite wounds to her neck when Deborah Golden and the little girl’s father, Armando Hernandez, began performing CPR, WXIN reported.
“I started CPR and I had the dad grab the neck and hold it,” Golden told the news outlet.
"I tried my best. I tried CPR, I tried helping her,” Armando told WWJ. “I couldn't do it. I tried, I did everything I could in my power to just – she was gone. She was gone when I reached her."
Emma was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead, WXIN reported.
"It's hard for me not to cry," Detroit Police Department Captain Russell Solano told WDIV. "It's tough, real tough. We're talking about a nine-year-old girl who was just out there playing, and now she's not here."
Emma’s Aunt, Claudia Stapleton, said that the family is absolutely devastated.
"This was her neighborhood. She should be able to play and do what every kid does – walk around, ride their bikes. They shouldn't be afraid to be in their own neighborhood," Stapleton said. “She was a very happy child, and she is gonna be very, very missed. It's just something that shouldn't have happened. They should have been more careful with their dogs."
A fundraising campaign established to help the family in the wake of their loss had raised more than $61,000.
“Emma dedicated her life to school work, playing and enjoying life with her family,” the page read. “Quick to get a head start on school work. She was such a smart and silly girl. Loved to be outdoors and play with her cousins. A beautiful soul inside and out.”
Police took the 33-year-old owner of the dogs into custody, WXIN reported.
“The owner of these dogs should be held accountable,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said on Tuesday, according to KTLA. “Certainly, the owner has a responsibility when they have violent animals that those animals are to be secured at all times. If you can’t secure the animal, you shouldn’t have the animal. Period.”
The three pit bulls were transported to Detroit Animal Care and Control.
"The entire team at Detroit Animal Care and Control is devastated by this tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to the family of this child," Detroit Animal Care and Control said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press.
"All three dogs are in our possession and will be evaluated; our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of Detroit residents. Due to the severity of this case, it is very likely that the dogs will be euthanized,” the statement read.
Armando said that the dogs’ owner lives in the home behind his, and that he had recently warned the owner that the fence between their residences needed to be repaired to help restrain the animals, WWJ reported.
"I knew the dogs were there. I knew the neighbor. We had an argument about it just last week and he just didn't take care of his dogs properly. He could have prevented this," Armando told the news outlet. "The dogs stayed there loose, wild, and the guy didn't feed them. The poor dogs, you know, I don't blame them."
Police have arrested the dogs’ owner, 33-year-old Pierre Cleveland, WDIV reported.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office charged Cleveland with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and having a dangerous animal causing death.
He was due to be arraigned on Thursday afternoon, according to WDIV.
Meanwhile, the victim’s father said he hasn’t been able to sleep since his daughter’s brutal death.
“Just, every time I close my eyes, man, I see my baby girl,” Armando told WWJ.