At around 1.30pm on 18 July, Freddy Garcia, 71, was walking to the corner store in his neighbourhood in Fresno, Texas, located about 20 miles southwest of Houston. Authorities say the man was mauled in an unprovoked attack by seven pit bull mix dogs.
When first responders arrived at the scene, he was airlifted to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, but he was pronounced dead shortly after making it to the facility, Fort Bend County Sheriff Eric Fagan said Tuesday during a press conference.
“This devastating tragedy didn’t have to happen. I extend my deepest condolences to the Garcia family and his neighbours as they adjust to the loss of Mr Garcia,” Sheriff Fagan said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Authorities were able to capture the first four dogs immediately after the attack, but issued a warning to residents on Monday, noting that the remaining three animals had not been captured.
By Tuesday afternoon, local animal control services had traced the three remaining pit bull mix dogs to the home of Samuel Cartwright, who initially claimed that the animals were all strays and that he contacted authorities as soon as he spotted them in his yard after noticing the blood still on the animals, KTRK reported.
“There’s 20 dogs around here right now. If you drive down this back street, there will be 20 loose dogs running around,” Mr Cartwright told KTRK in an interview. “People just dump them around here. The dogs go wherever they can find food.”
By Friday, officers from the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office announced that they’d made an arrest in connection with Garcia’s death.
Mr Cartwright, 47, was charged with charged with attack by dog resulting in death after his seven pit bull mix dogs allegedly attacked the 71-year-old last week.
In Texas, the owner of a loose dog that causes injury or death can be prosecuted if the owner is found to be “criminally negligent” in failing to prevent the dog from escaping.
The law, named Lillian’s Law after a woman who died from being mauled to death in her front lawn by a pack of pit bull-rottweiler mix dogs in 2005, is a third-degree felony charge that can bring a sentence of 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if a person is injured, and if the victim dies, the dog owner can be charged with a second-degree felony, bringing up to 20 years in prison.
“If you have a dangerous dog, it is your responsibility to keep that dog secure, to keep the members in our community safe,” said Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton during a press conference the day after the deadly attack. “If you fail to do that you will be held accountable.”
Mr Cartwright is being held at the Fort Bend County Jail with a $100,000 bond, authorities said.