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from The San Francisco Chronicle

    3 pit bulls maul boy riding bike
Dogs missing after attack in Richmond

Henry K. Lee, Pia Sarkar, Chronicle Staff Writers

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Three pit bull terriers that brutally mauled a 10-year-old boy as he rode his new bicycle through his Richmond neighborhood could not be found yesterday, and police believe the owner has hidden them.

Shawn Jones remained in "very critical" condition last night after more than three hours of surgery. He faces months of operations to repair "very devastating" muscle and nerve damage to his head and neck, said his surgeon, Dr. James Betts. Betts called the Monday night attack the worst mauling he has seen anyone survive.

The owner of the dogs, 27-year-old Benjamin Moore of Richmond, told police he abandoned the animals before turning himself in early yesterday, but investigators suspect he hid them -- though they have no clue where.


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"We don't know where they are," police Sgt. Gary Dixon said. "All I can tell you is that we think they were hidden."

The dogs are not believed to be roaming the streets, Dixon said.

Finding the dogs is a top priority for police and doctors, who will have to subject Shawn to the additional pain of rabies treatments if the animals do not turn up within the next day or so.

The fact that no one knows where the animals might be had Shawn's family and neighbors on edge yesterday.

"We don't want any other children in the neighborhood to be harmed by those same dogs," Shawn's aunt, Belinda Arnett, said at a news conference at Children's Hospital in Oakland as Shawn fought for his life.

Shawn was riding his new mountain bike -- a reward for having passed the fifth grade with good grades -- near the dead-end of Lucas Avenue behind Peres Elementary at around 7:30 p.m. Monday when the dogs attacked.

Police said the dogs escaped from an open door of Moore's home at the corner of Sixth Street and Lucas Avenue, one block from where the attack occurred.

A woman who answered the door at the home declined comment yesterday.

Shawn remained on a ventilator last night, and doctors said it will be at least a month before he can return home.

The dogs tore Shawn's ears from his head and ripped into his face, neck and arms during the attack, which came without warning or provocation, police and doctors said.

Betts, chief of surgery at the hospital, called the attack "the worst mauling of someone who survived. There's no doubt this could have been a fatal injury."

Shawn's ears were "completely mauled" and cannot be reattached, Betts said. The boy lost nearly all the skin and muscle on his face, and it took doctors four hours just to clean the wounds, Betts said.

After turning himself in at 1 a.m. yesterday, Moore told police that he freed one dog on Regatta Boulevard near the Richmond waterfront, another on Hegenberger Road in Oakland and a third at an undisclosed location in Oakland following the attack, said Richmond police Lt. Lori Ritter.

Police arrested Moore's girlfriend, Jacinda Lynn Knight, 33, hours later at her Richmond home.

Moore is being held on $100,000 bond and faces one count of mayhem. Knight faces charges of mayhem and owning dogs trained to fight, attack or kill. Her bail is $115,000.

Friends and relatives described Shawn, who turns 11 in August, as an artistic, happy-go-lucky child who enjoys writing poetry, fishing, riding his bike, playing video games and shooting hoops in the driveway.

His aunt, Roselyn May, said she expected Shawn's strong will to carry him through the ordeal.

"He's a fighter," May said. "He's a beautiful child, very warm and loving," she said. "Everybody around him knows him and loves him."

The attack horrified residents in Richmond's Iron Triangle neighborhood.

"I think they should ban these dogs out of the neighborhood," said Mary Rincon, 72, whose daughter called 911 to report the attack.

Richard Grimes, who lives near the dogs' owner, said two of Moore's pit bulls bounded toward his gate last Saturday.

"They barked and couldn't get in here," Grimes said.

The dog owner later apologized for leaving his gate open, but Grimes told him, "Sorry is not good enough."

A school official who worked closely with Shawn said he likes writing poems and recently wrote one called "I Am From" in which he describes his roots.

"His relationships were really important to him," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I know that he really tried. He has a good heart. He really felt a lot. "

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

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