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Pit bulls maul boy to death in his yard

The Hillsborough 8-year-old was playing with his sisters when the two dogs being temporarily kept there attacked.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
Published October 9, 2004

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[Times photo: Brian Wagner]
Rolatosia Harris, at right, was keeping the dogs that killed her son for a family friend, officials said.
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These mixed-breed pit bullterriers were taken by officials to be euthanized after their owner, who was not identified, granted permission.

TAMPA - The young mother staggered off toward the end of the road, arms aloft, seeming to plead with something unseen for answers.

Behind her, attendants carried the covered body of her 8-year-old son into a waiting van.

Nearby, sheriff's deputies tenderly hugged and consoled young children. Longtime animal control workers fought back nausea, sickened by what they had seen behind a simple concrete block home in Orient Park, east of Tampa.

All the while, young Anton Brown's killers sat panting inside a cage in the back of a truck. The pair stirred expectantly whenever workers swung open the back doors.

Officials said the two mixed-breed pit bullterriers mauled Anton Brown to death about 2:40 p.m. Friday as he played in the back yard with his two sisters at their home on Patina Drive, a few miles south of the Florida Fairgrounds.

As the dogs dragged the boy down, his sisters ran to neighbors for help. By the time they returned, it was too late.

Responding emergency personnel with county Fire Rescue pronounced Anton dead at the scene.

The pit bulls did not belong to Anton's family but were being kept temporarily in the back yard for a family friend, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. No adults were home when the dogs charged Anton.

The gruesome killing shook experienced animal control employees, who said it should be a warning to parents not to leave children alone with dogs, even if the pets are affectionate with their owners.

"The love of your life might be someone else's nightmare," said Dennis McCullough, investigation supervisor with the Hillsborough County Animal Services.

"This has made me nauseous."

The last time a dog fatally mauled a child in Hillsborough County was 1994, animal services workers said.

The dogs in Friday's attack - a brown and white male and a black and white female - were taken away to be euthanized after their owner, who was not identified, granted permission.

"I wish I could do it right here," McCullough added, his eyes moist. He estimated the dogs weighed between 45 and 55 pounds, each.

No charges were filed Friday. Sheriff's spokesman Rod Reder said it was too early in the investigation to say if any would be brought.

The neighborhood is a maze of narrow streets populated by young families. A cluster of children in their early teens crowded on the corner, trying to learn what happened.

Years their junior, Anton was already a force to be reckoned with on the football field, they said.

"Man, he was good," said 14-year-old Eric Robinson, watching from his bicycle as deputies and relatives milled around Anton's house on the other side of yellow police tape.

Anton had a strong arm and was a quarterback for a neighborhood team called the Eagles, said Eric and his cousin, 14-year-old Danion McOgg. Anton must have just gotten off the bus from Kenly Elementary, which drops students off about 2:30 p.m., when he went to play in his back yard, Eric and Danion said.

The spunky, energetic boy was always outside playing, said Pastor Elgin Franklin of the Miracle City Worship Center, a nondenominational church Anton's mother attended. Anton went to Sunday Bible school at the the church.

Anton was the youngest of five siblings, including three sisters and a brother, said Franklin, who has known the family for two years and showed up in shorts and a T-shirt to comfort them.

Anton was a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he said.

"After one game, he told his grandma, "Let me call the pastor and tell him about the game,' " Franklin remembered.

The pastor said the owner of the dogs, a family friend, was "sorrowful" about what happened. Other relatives declined to talk.

The boy's father, Anton Brown walked up to the house still in his work clothes, including a blue auto body shop shirt with his name on the pocket.

Brown, who lives in West Tampa, said he didn't know the dogs were being kept there.

"I don't even know what happened," was all he would say.

Anton's mother, identified by police as 31-year-old Rolatosia Harris, also rushed home in her work clothes - blue medical scrubs. Franklin said she works as a nurse's assistant for a doctor's office.

"You can't describe with words what happened here today," Franklin said as deputies left and the family re-entered the house.

"There's a lot of devastation right here today."

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or 813 226-3383.

[Last modified October 9, 2004, 01:04:14]


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