A 10-year-old Martins Ferry girl underwent facial reconstructive surgery Thursday to repair injuries she sustained the night before when she was attacked by an unregistered pit bull at a home on Wheeling Island.
Kamiri Johnson went into surgery at Wheeling Hospital around 2:30 p.m. Thursday to repair deep lacerations to her nose and upper lip, as well as her chest and around her eye, according to her mother, Tara Johnson.
After spending Wednesday at the Wheeling Island Pool with a friend, Kamiri Johnson went to the girl's grandmother's house on New Jersey Street. While she was inside, Johnson said the white pit bull was growling at her. According a police report, the grandmother of Johnson's friend told the girl, "That's just the way the dog is." The woman reportedly assured the girl she should not be afraid of the animal.
The 3-year-old pitt bull then attacked Johnson, biting the girl on the chest and knocking her to the floor, the report states. The pit bull got on top of Johnson and bit her on the face multiple times, lacerating her face in multiple places.
The attack continued until the dog's owner, 28-year-old Derek Bates, ran downstairs and pulled the animal off of Johnson. Rather than call emergency responders after the attack, they waited for the mother of Johnson's friend to arrive. The woman came to the residence and took the injured girl to the hospital.
When police met with Johnson and her mother at the hospital around 10 p.m. Wednesday, officers were told the attack was not the first time the dog had bitten someone. Police, however, left the hospital without an address of where the attack took place or the identity of Bates or the two female adults.
Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball went to New Jersey Street on Thursday to try and locate the house. Neighbors told Kimball they had never seen a dog matching the description he gave, but said there are other pit bulls in the area.
A mailman pointed out the house to Kimball, and he spoke with Bates. The dog was growling at Kimball from inside the home, he said. Bates expressed genuine remorse about the girl's injuries, according to Kimball, and he readily turned the pit bull over to Ohio County Animal Control to be euthanized.
Bates was issued a citation for violating the city's vicious dog ordinance. Police also cited Bates on May 26, when the dog reportedly was running unleashed in the street. He has a municipal court appearance set for Wednesday. Bates denied that the pit bull had bitten people before, but he admitted it had attacked other animals.
"It's been overwhelming, terrifying - I just can't even put it into words," Tara Johnson said while her daughter was in surgery Thursday. "I got a panicked phone call that she had been bitten, and my heart dropped into my stomach."
Doctors told Tara Johnson the scarring on her daughter's face and chest will never disappear entirely. They hope the girl did not sustain nerve damage.
Kamiri Johnson has lived her entire life with dogs in her home, but Tara Johnson said if she had known there was a vicious pitt bull inside, she would have kept her daughter from the Wheeling Island residence that day. The 10-year-old reportedly told her mother she will not leave her own house for the rest of the summer, and Tara Johnson believes the girl will now always be afraid of unfamiliar dogs.
Wednesday marked the second time in just over a week that an unregistered pit bull injured a child in the city. One of the dogs leapt at a 12-year-old girl last week, causing the child to fall to the ground and fracture her hand.