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‘A minute of pure terror’

Wounds require 40 stitches after man helps save girl from pit bull

Craig Randleman describes it as a minute of pure terror.

It started with the sounds of children’s screams on Thursday, coming from the alley behind his home in the 1800 block of East Courtland Avenue. Children played and screamed there all the time, but this was different.

Randleman stopped working on his van and looked into the alley where he saw a tan pit bull attacking an 8-year-old girl who was lying on the ground. Neighbor Thomas Joy spotted the trouble around the same time and both men ran to save her.

Desperately, they rained blows on the dog, kicking and hitting it wherever they could. They were able to pull the dog off her at least once. “It went right back at her again,” said Randleman as tears came to his eyes and his voice broke. “She was just really torn up. It was really bad.”

At last the dog turned its attention away from the girl. “I think that’s when it lunged at my face,” Randleman said.

The dog bit down on his right arm and held on, tearing skin and muscle and getting down to the bone. Joy hit and kicked the dog repeatedly as Randleman struggled to break loose. Once free, he turned and ran down the alley, limping on his bad hip. “I thought if I ran away from the girl, we could get it away from her,” he said.

The plan worked. The dog leapt from behind, ripping into Randleman’s left bicep. He twisted and fought to get free. “I was screaming the whole time,” he said. “It was going to kill me. I did not doubt it for a second.”

Joy removed the girl as Randleman climbed over a neighbor’s fence. He lay on the ground, spent and bleeding, as the dog tried to climb the tall fence to get to him. Another neighbor arrived with a shovel and started swinging. “He hit that dog 10, 12 times, easily,” Randleman said. “It did nothing.”

Neighbors were finally able to corner the two pit bulls in a yard and lock them in. Randleman and Joy both say the other pit bull, which is black, did not participate in the attacks.

The entire chaotic event was witnessed by the girl’s friends, said Joy. “They couldn’t do anything about it,” Joy said. “It was horrible.”

Randleman said one boy told him that the black dog exuberantly knocked the girl over after escaping from its back yard and that’s when the tan dog attacked. The girl was treated and released from the hospital, authorities said.

Neither Joy (pictured, right) nor Randleman have had problems with the dogs previously. “They bark,” said Joy, who lives next door to the dogs on Bridgeport Avenue. “I’ve never seen the dogs out before.”

Randleman said he was impressed by the little girl’s bravery. “I don’t know how she did it,” he said. “That dog was a killer.”

More than 40 stitches were required to close the wounds on Randleman’s arms and face. It’s likely that his memories of the tan dog will stay long after his scars fade. “That dog should be put down,” he said. “If I ever see that dog, ever, I think I would try to kill it.”

The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service is investigating the attack to determine if the dogs should be deemed dangerous and if their owner should face criminal charges. Both pit bulls were seized by SCRAPS.