STOCKTON -- The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office said its deputies had little choice but to shoot and kill a pit bull after it attacked a man in south Stockton. That man later died from injuries he got from the dog during the attack.
"Very, very tragic," said Stephanie Steffens, who, from just next door, told FOX40 she could hear something very wrong happening at a trailer home on North Gertrude Avenue in Stockton.
"And I heard screaming and yelling, and I came outside to see what was going on." Steffens said it was at that moment when she saw her neighbor, Debbie.
"Debbie yelled, 'call 911, call 911' and I told her, 'okay,'" Steffens said.
She could hear her neighbor's pit bull, Harley, growling, got to her phone and dialed.
"I said, 'Please have them come as soon as possible because it sounds like the man is being mauled,'" she said.
Soon San Joaquin Sheriff deputies arrived, and more neighbors started coming out of their homes.
"I heard what sounded like fireworks, and when I came outside to check, there was about three sheriffs and animal control outside, and they were actually shooting the pit bull," said Ryan Juarez, who lives down the street.
The sheriff's office said when deputies arrived, Harley was still on the loose and aggressive in the yard. That made it impossible for medical workers to get to the victim, who was badly bleeding from multiple dog bite wounds. That's why they took lethal action.
"The EMTs were trying to get him on the gurney, and it looked like he was pretty much gone, because he had neck damage from the dog," Juarez told FOX40.
The sheriff's office said 43-year-old Earl Wayne Stephens Jr. did not survive the attack, and later died at the hospital.
"I've known the big dog since he was a puppy, and I've never had any problems with him," said Ezekiel Steffens Goeas, Steffens' son.
Goeas told FOX40, Harley's owners were too distraught to speak with media. But he said the victim was a friend who was visiting. Steffens was later told what initially set Harley off.
"He was sitting in the man's lap, and when [the owner] came outside and said come on Harley get off his lap, that's when the dog went crazy," Steffens said.