PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions


Headlines by E-mail

Headlines Region & State Neighborhoods Business
Sports Health & Science Magazine Forum

2 pit bulls shot, killed after injuring 3

Rescuer one of victims; city officer ends attack

Thursday, September 21, 2000

By Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Gwen Kemp drifted off to sleep late Tuesday night contemplating a chapter in her psychology textbook that said people in densely populated urban areas tend not to help one another during emergencies, mainly because they think someone else is taking action.

Henry Kemp of Fineview, who rushed to help neighbors during a pit bull attack, became another of the dogs' victims. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette) 

As morning dawned and Kemp captured those last post-alarm-clock minutes of sleep, she was jolted from the bed by the bone-chilling screams of her neighbor, Marquitta Harris, 39, who a half-block away was being attacked by two pit bulls.

"It was one of those blood-curdling screams that says someone's really in trouble," said Kemp, a Heinz employee who moved to Fineview from Kentucky just three months ago. "I said to myself, 'I'm not going to be one of those people who just waits for others to help.' "

Kemp shouted for her husband, Henry, who within seconds had on pants, a jacket and a pair of shoes he didn't take time to tie.

As he bolted out of their Meadville Street home, crowbar in hand, Gwen Kemp was calling 911.

Meanwhile, the situation was worsening. Harris was still under attack, as was another neighbor, Judy Rassius, 36.

"It's not like they were children throwing rocks," Henry Kemp said. "They were just standing there waiting on a bus."

Henry Kemp and two other neighbors who ran from their homes -- one with a stick, one with a two-by-four -- began swinging.

Deciding the crowbar was too short, Kemp, 51, scrambled back to his house and grabbed a wooden closet bar that he had inside the door.

"I needed something longer and bigger. I was able to beat them off a little bit," Kemp said as he lay on his living room couch recovering from the bites he received. "It was like hitting a piece of steel. They didn't feel a thing."

For three, maybe five long minutes, the dogs continued to lunge. Kemp and the others kept swinging. Harris continued to scream.

Gwen Kemp was so anxious she dialed 911 a second time hoping to rush the rescuers who were already en route. She watched in horror as her husband became the dogs' next victim.

"I saw the dogs. They looked so tiny. But I could tell from the walk they were pit bulls. Then I saw Henry fall and I thought, 'Oooh,'" she said, sucking in her breath.

Despite his injuries, Henry Kemp kept swinging, as did his neighbors, until he was able to free himself from the dogs.

Just then, Pittsburgh police Officer Pete Zawojski of the North Side station pulled up.

As Zawojski stepped from the patrol car, he caught the dogs' attention.

The dogs -- Zeus, a black and white pit bull, and Brenda, a black and brown pit bull -- ran toward Zawojski growling and barking, he would say in a report filed later.

The officer pulled his gun.

The dogs advanced.

Eyeing the bloody scene in front of him, Zawojski didn't hesitate.

He pulled the trigger, striking Zeus in the head and sending both animals running.

Zeus made it up the steps of 1724 Meadville St., where authorities later learned his owner lived. He died on the porch.

Brenda, though, ran back toward the officer.

Zawojski fired a second time, striking her. Officers later found her wounded in the back of the home. She was destroyed.

With the dogs finally under control, Zawojski turned his attention to the victims. Medics, additional police and animal control officers were en route.

Henry Kemp had bites on the left hand and right leg. Rassius was bitten on the left thigh and the buttocks. Harris, who was attacked first and was the most severely injured, had numerous bites on her left arm and thigh and serious injuries to her left hand.

All were treated at Allegheny General Hospital and later sent home.

Back on Meadville Street, officers determined that the dogs, owned by Ora P. Johnston, 21, had climbed up a chair, onto a table, over a back wall and off the property.

Johnston was cited for not having current licenses for the dogs or updated rabies shots and for allowing them to run loose.

By early afternoon, she expressed remorse that the dogs had attacked but was vehement in her belief that they shouldn't have been killed.

"These people were getting attacked. My dogs were murdered," she said, adding that she thought of the dogs as family. She referred to them as "my 5-year-old twins" and said they played easily with her daughter, 4, and infant son, 1.

Johnston said that Zeus, in particular, did not like people he didn't know and was very protective.

"I've had them for five years. They were family dogs," Johnston said. "They jumped over a wall. This is the first time they've ever gotten out."

Those who witnessed the attack were unsympathetic.

"If the policeman didn't show up with a gun, there would have been more people chewed up," Henry Kemp said.

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy