Tulsa police credit a man who distracted and shot a dog that brutally attacked two women Tuesday morning with saving their lives.
The women suffered “extensive dog bite wounds to their faces, arms and legs” and were transported by EMSA to St. John Medical Center, Officer Leland Ashley said. One of the victims, Irene Parker, 78, underwent extensive surgery that took four hours.
The other victim was a 43-year-old woman whose name has not been released. Both women were in critical condition Tuesday night.
Levi Moore, an elder at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses at 2626 N. Lewis Ave., said the women were volunteers who walked door-to-door ministering and distributing religious literature.
“It is a terrible tragedy,” Moore said. “They were two ladies just trying to help people.”
The attack occurred in the 2000 block of North Lewis Place about 10:20 a.m., Ashley said.
“The large pit bull dog burst through the door and began to attack” the women after a resident answered the women’s knock, he said.
Mike Harrell said he and the receptionist where he works heard noises from across the street but couldn’t see what the commotion was.
“We were trying to figure out what it was, and all of a sudden we hear this blood-curdling scream,” Harrell said.
He said he got in his truck and went to the area, where he saw the dog attacking one woman, another woman lying motionless on the ground, and the dog’s owner screaming. All of them were covered in blood.
“So I grabbed my gun out of the truck and ran to the fence — started shaking the fence, yelling at the dog, trying to get the dog off of her and just trying to get it away,” said Harrell, who said he has a license to carry a handgun.
“I knew there was no way of shooting the dog or anything where it was. It was basically biting the lady’s leg or on top of the lady, and right behind her was the downed lady.”
The dark gray dog, which Harrell estimated to weigh about 130 pounds, eventually turned its attention toward Harrell and charged at him, blood covering its mouth.
“Finally it let go (of the woman), and it started running,” said Harrell, who closed a gate between him and the dog. “When it did, I just said, ‘Is this your dog?’ and the lady said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Can I shoot it?’ ”
Harrell said the owner said yes, so he reached over the gate and fired one round into the dog’s head.
“I knew as long as I had that gate, that as soon as I got him to come at me I could close that gate at the last minute,” he said. “I had something that was in between me” and the dog.
The injured women lay motionless on the ground, he said. The dog’s owner, armed with a baseball bat, was hysterically screaming on her knees in the front yard, he said.
Lance Snider, who heard the commotion just feet from his home and called the police after witnessing the attack, described what he saw as “disgusting and shocking.”
“One of the women wasn’t moving,” Snider said.
At one point the dog’s owner struck the animal with a bat in an effort to halt the attack, witnesses said.
“Another woman tried to pull the dog away,” Snider said. “If (Harrell) had not shot that dog, it would have probably killed all of them.”
Snider indicated that he’s never experienced problems with the pit bull since its owner moved into the neighborhood about a year ago, but he said the animal “looked rough.”
“It’s been mostly loud at times,” he said.
Other neighbors said they’ve had minimal contact with the dog or its owner.
Harrell said he fears what the outcome would have been had he or someone else not acted. Neighbors were on the phone with authorities when he arrived, and police arrived about two minutes after he shot the dog, he said.
“I just wish I was there sooner, and I hope to God they’re both OK,” Harrell said.
He said neighbors and authorities thanked him for his action.
“He’s a hero,” Snider said. “That’s the word that comes to mind.”
Jean Letcher, manager of the Tulsa Animal Shelter, said investigators had not issued a citation to the dog’s owner.
Harrell said he is a dog lover, but that wasn’t what concerned him at the time. He knew he had to stop the attack.
But the trauma of the event for him — both shooting the dog and witnessing the women’s injuries — will be difficult to overcome.
“For the most part, I’m probably not going to sleep that good tonight,” Harrell said.