2003-03-01 / Community

Pit Bulls Attack Police, One Shot

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

What began as a routine vertical patrol in the Edgemere Houses wound up on Friday, February 24 with a police lieutenant and his operator being attacked by two pit bulls and with one of the dogs dead in the snow.

The incident began at about 9:10 a.m., when Lieutenant Gary Messina, the second tour commander for the 101 Precinct on that day, and his operator, Police Officer Gary Mazzei, completed the patrol at 54-09 Almeda Avenue.

According to police sources at the precinct, the two saw a man with two unleashed pit bulls nearby another man in a wheel chair. When the two police officials asked the man with the dogs why they were off their leashes and attempted to ascertain his identity, he reportedly "got belligerent" and he "gave the dogs an intelligible verbal command."

At that command, the police say, one of the dogs, a 40-pound tiger-stripped pit bull bit Officer Mazzei on the left forearm.

Lieutenant Messina used pepper spray to force the dog to release the officer's arm. At that, the second dog jumped the fence that he was behind and bit the lieutenant first on the left calf and then on his left leg.

Messina reportedly tried unsuccessfully to attempt to get the dog to release him.

He finally drew his 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson automatic and shot the dog once, killing the animal instantly. The dog reportedly still held fast to Messina's leg.

The man who owned the dogs fled the scene, jumping over a number of fences and snow pilings to escape.

The two police officers called in his description and went after him, but he disappeared after entering 54-41 Almeda Avenue.

Both of the officers were taken to local hospitals, where they were treated for dog bites and released.

The search for both the man who had the dogs and the other dog brought units from the NYPD's Aviation and K-9 units, as well as trucks from the Emergency Service Unit (ESU) to Rockaway.

Many of those units were pulled out soon thereafter, however due to the massive explosion in Staten Island and the need for those specialized units at that site.

At press time, police had not yet made an arrest.

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