Update: 23 year old Sherry Wooten has been arrested for her involvement in the attack. According to media reports, Wooten is dating Bernard Humphrey's brother -- and went to the apartment to let the dogs out of the bathroom because the landlord needed to fix a leak in the bathroom that was running into the apartment below. Wooten admitted to knowing the dogs were aggressive and involved in the Sunday incident, but still decided to let the dogs out to trun loose anyway. Wooten has been arrested and charged with negligent homicide. It's good to see the authorities holding people accountable for their actions -- although it is still unclear why the dogs were not confiscated after the Sunday incident.
The original story:
Potential fatal dog attack, and why covering only part of the story is an injustice to everyone
Yesterday, news broke about a tragic incident in Memphis where a 71 year old man was attacked by two dogs. The man's daughter came to his aid and was also bitten and during the attack and the man, William Parker, had cardiac arrest during the attack and later died at the hospital.
The Associated Press picked up the first story released after the attack -- which was picked up by nearly 200 media outlets across the country with the headline: "Tennessee Pit Bull Attacks Leave Elderly Man Dead."
Of course, the story was far from complete -- and the headline not even completely accurate. It sure SOUNDS like the 'pit bulls' killed the man, but at the present time, there seems to be a lot of doubt as to the man's actual cause of death (which could have been from the heart attack he suffered). All of the man's injuries appear to be on his lower legs. One news station even failed to mention the man going into cardiac arrest altogether.
Meanwhile, there is a lot more information to the story that sure paints a different story than 'pit bull' kills man.
Turns out, authorities knew in advance that the dogs were a problem -- and may, in fact, have made the problem worse.
On Sunday, police were called after the dogs attempted to attack a man. When the authorities came out, they arrested the owner of the dogs, Bernard Humphrey. The 31 year old Humphrey has quite a rap sheet -- with a criminal record that includes statutory rape, drug charges, weapons charges and vandalism. Humphrey had recently moved to the property without notifying authorities -- which was a violation of his being on the sex offender registry.
Police arrested Humphrey - -and took him to jail. However, they left the dogs - -and it is unclear who, if anyone, was actually caring for the dogs (who, it is noted, were usually chained to a stair railing near Humphrey's apartment).
The attack took place in the 38103 zip code in Memphis -- an area where 23.4% of the population lives below the poverty line (nearly double the national average) and 14% of the population lives below 50% of the poverty level.
Meanwhile, it would not be terribly surprising that Memphis' animal control would drop the ball when it comes to proper enforcement in the previous incident -- this is the same shelter than only a few months ago had several cases of horrific abuse in their animal shelter -- one of which led to a healthy dog being starved to death in just a short time in their shelter. Interestingly, just last week, YesBiscuit! noted that even though they had recently hired a new animal control director, the agency is still 800 calls behind in responding to calls.
So, what the vast majority of the media outlets didn't cover was an owner with a violent history -- who was hauled off to jail and no longer looking after the dogs. A neighborhood that is mired in poverty, and an animal control that is woefully behind in doing its basic job, and authorities that knew of a problem, and failed to do anything that would have prevented the attack -- or the reality that the man may well not have died from the actual dog attack at all.
When the media gets lazy, and only covers the story as a 'pit bull' attack, they do the world a disservice by not providing all of the causes that led up to the tragic incident. When people see the entire picture, it really isn't a huge surprise something tragic happened - and it was highly preventable. But ignoring causes only gets us further away from solving the actual problems.
My heart goes out to the Parker family -- who sounds like they deserved better than this.