Lasting marks: Lyons resident shares dog attack story

Gomez attacked by pit bull on Good Friday

By Mike Courson

With a day off and a paycheck in hand heading into a three-day Easter weekend, Friday, March 30 was indeed looking like a Good Friday for Lyons resident Montey Gomez. Things took a turn for the worse just after noon that day when Gomez was mauled by a pit bull.

More than a month has now passed since the attack, and Gomez’s frustrations have only grown. “Nobody cares,” he said. “Nobody cares because it’s not their leg.”

Bad Friday

Gomez runs every morning, often totaling up to 25 miles a week. On March 30, Gomez started his day by running five miles without incident.

Though it was a scheduled day off from work, Gomez learned he needed to run a few errands. First, a client needed some ID cards, which would require a quick stop at the office. Then his wife called and asked for some cash. Gomez decided to make an early work out of it so he could return home and get some yard work done.

A fateful walk

Every day after work, Gomez walks a mile or two. ID cards delivered and cash in hand, he decided to walk the money to his wife. “I figured I’d just hand deliver it to her,” he said. “That way I could get my walk in and have the rest of the day to myself.”

Gomez took this photo of his thigh wound shortly after the March 30 attack. (courtesy photo)

After dropping off the money for his wife at Rice County District Hospital at approximately 11:45 a.m., Gomez headed east on Taylor Street. “Taylor doesn’t have any sidewalks,” he explained. “I’ve always been told to jog into traffic so you can see cars coming, so I was walking east into oncoming traffic.”

The attack

As he neared Battershell Field, Gomez walked diagonally across Taylor. He had his headphones on and was enjoying the walk when out of his peripheral vision he saw, as he remembers, three pit bulls.

“I would say I was 60-80 feet from them,” Gomez said. “I always carry my pepper spray. When I run I always carry my pepper spray. When I run, I have it in my hand.”

But on this day, Gomez was not running. His pepper spray was tucked firmly in the pocket of his denim jeans when one of the dogs approached.

“I’ve always been told not to run from a dog, and not to turn my back on a dog,” he said. “When I saw this dog coming, it wasn’t barking or growling.”

As Gomez recalls, the pit bull trotted over to him. He thought the dog would just bark or growl but he never turned his back on the animal. Then it attacked.

“The dog kept circling and I faced it,” said Gomez. “I panicked and couldn’t get to my pepper spray. He lunged at my and nipped my thigh, just above my knee.”

Gomez still could not get to his pepper spray and the dog lunged again, this time latching on to Gomez’s thigh. Gomez was still trying to reach his pepper spray when the dog bit his left hand. Then it grabbed him by the right arm and dragged him to the ground.

“I knew at that point I could not reach my pepper spray in my right pocked because he had me on the ground,” Gomez said. “People tell you what to do during a dog attack, but you put them in a 12×12 room with a dog and I’m not sure how they’d react.”

Quick and violent

Gomez would later estimate the dog attack lasted less than a minute. In that time, while on the ground, he never heard the owners yell at the dog though a male from the residence did come outside.

Gomez suffered injuries to his elbow and collarbone when being dragged to the ground by the dog. (courtesy photo)

“He was afraid of the dog turning on him,” said Gomez. “He stayed probably 8-10 feet away from me. The dog did not have a collar so, I guess in his defense, he couldn’t grab it anywhere.

“At that point I was just praying to God something would happen. When I was on the ground, I saw two adults down the street. I have no idea who they were. One was on a bike. No one came to help.”

The attack ultimately stopped and the man who had come outside asked if Gomez was okay. Gomez said he was not and the man asked again. He repeated he was not okay and asked the man to make sure the dog did not attack again so he could get off the ground.

Gomez typically wears light running attire when he exercises. Because of cool temperatures and the nature of the walk, Gomez was instead wearing blue jeans and a brand new University of Kansas hoodie.

“Had I been wearing my Spandex, this dog probably would have taken a chunk out of my leg,” he said. “The hoodie – even though I have marks on my arm – has no holes where the dog bit me. It did get torn up on the elbow when I landed on the ground.

“I thought the worst of my injuries was to my arm. I pass out when I see my own blood, so I was pretty much in shock and didn’t want to pass out because I knew I wasn’t getting any help. Since I’d just come from seeing my wife at the hospital, I called her before I called 911 because I knew she was closest to me.”

Getting help

Gomez placed the call to his wife at 12:04 p.m. Wanting to avoid an emergency room visit for insurance reasons, Gomez had his wife take him to the health clinic for an examination.

“When I sat down, I could see the meat of my leg hanging out of my jeans,” he said. “It was just laid over. But I wasn’t gushing any blood and didn’t have any blood on my hoodie.”

Staff at the clinic advised Gomez to go to the emergency room but agreed to give his wounds a quick onceover. They again advised him to go to the hospital and he did. A doctor there said he could go back to the clinic after lunch.

“It looked like a softball on my thigh,” Gomez said. “It had swelled up that bad but it wasn’t bleeding. (The doctor) told me I could go back to the medical center and wait since it was not bleeding.

“At that point, I took my hoodie off and I couldn’t believe my arm was not mangled. I was pretty much in a good mood from there. I’ve had second-degree burns before, and the bite felt like a second-degree burn.”

Doctors told Gomez most of the damage had been inside the leg, and the swelling was caused from bleeding inside the wound. Four days after the attack, Gomez reported persistent pain in his left hand where he was bitten, and a mysterious fever that struck every night.

“Every night I get the flu,” Gomez said on April 2. “I feel like I have the flu every night at about 7 p.m. I break a ferocious sweat between 1-2 a.m. (The morning of April 2) it didn’t happen so I think I’m finally healing.”

A speedy hearing

On the way back to the clinic from the hospital, Gomez and his wife stopped by the scene of the attack to speak with city and county law enforcement officers. Gomez’s jeans were collected as evidence but he never filled out a written statement.

Gomez later obtained a copy of the written police report from Lyons Police Department officer Angela Tobisch. The report accurately portrayed the attack and included details and photographs of Gomez’s injuries.

At the scene, Gomez heard the owners of the dog say this had never happened before. “This just happened to be a pit bull,” said Gomez. “I don’t care if it was a poodle or a Chihuahua. It just happened to be a pit bull. This is not a knock against pit bull owners. Officer Hammer assured me this dog would probably have to be put down.”

In an effort to warn other walkers and runners in Lyons, Gomez posted his story on Facebook over Easter weekend. “My whole point was to put it out there for awareness,” he said. “When I put it out there, I probably got 15 private messages from people who were concerned.”

One of those messages pertained to the dog involved in the attack and suggested it had previously been involved in another attack. Gomez called the Reno County Sheriff’s Office which, he says, knew of that attack.

Monday hearing

The day after Easter, Gomez called City Attorney Mark Tremaine to relay the information sent to him on Facebook. He told Tremaine the dog needed to be destroyed because of its history. Tremaine mentioned there would be a hearing on the attack that evening. Vicious animals are impounded by the city, which typically moves quickly in these cases to minimize costs associated with boarding the impounded animals.

“By luck of the draw, I just ran across this emergency hearing,” Gomez said. “I don’t think anyone was going to call me and let me know.”

Gomez headed to the public hearing that evening confident he was assisting in a public safety matter. Prior to the hearing, he showed Tremaine the messages on Facebook and offered his phone as evidence.

“I told him this dog needs to be put down,” he said. “Something bad is going to happen.”

Gomez was informed of the city ordinance pertaining to vicious animals. Under section 2-115 of the city code, the court is to take into consideration seven factors, including the “seriousness of any injury or damage to persons or property,” and “the past history of the animal or animals with respect to injury or damage to persons or property.”

Taking all items into consideration, the municipal judge has the option to have the animal destroyed in a humane matter or “permit confinement of the animal in such a manner and location, as the court deems appropriate.”

Throughout the hearing, Gomez never felt he had a voice in the matter. “They never came to us for questions,” he said. “They had my jeans from the attack there and never looked at those. Tremaine never said anything about what I showed him on my phone. I knew where this was going.”

The owners of the dog informed Municipal Judge Richard Burgess they already had a place outside of Lyons city limits to move the dog. Before Burgess could make a ruling, Gomez asked to address the court. With permission, he informed the court of alleged previous attacks from the same dog.

Tremaine asked Gomez if he had medical bills associated with the case. He told Burgess since arrangements had already been made to move the dog, the city was willing to waive all charges and fines if the owner agreed to pay Gomez’s medical bills. The owner agreed.

“I was just in shock,” said Gomez. “There was nothing I could do but accept it.”

Slow healing

Some five weeks have passed since the attack and Gomez has yet to receive any compensation for medical bills or expenses stemming from the attack. He said it has been a challenge to figure out how to turn in bills and where to turn them in.

“I’m 47 years old and I was born and raised here,” he said. “I feel like the city has let me down big time. One of my biggest disappointments is no one has responded to the newspaper. I feel like I’ve been honest and stated the facts, and I wanted to know what they were thinking. There’s no communication.

“I feel like a number in my own small town. I felt like that when I went to school at KU. I never thought my little town would make me feel like just a number but, boy, they sure have.”

So far, Gomez has turned in $878.37 in medical bills with one blood test still outstanding. His insurance has already paid several hundred dollars toward the costs, but Gomez believes the owners of the dog should have to pay all costs.

A letter to Gomez from Judge Burgess said. “In addition to finds and court costs (the owner of the dog) was ordered to pay restitution to Montey Gomez, the victim in this case…”

“All bills incurred that are not covered by insurance due to medical and/or mental health treatment provided to Mr. Gomez shall be paid by (the owner of the dog) as per order of the City of Lyons Municipal Court Judge Richard Burgess.”

“She shouldn’t get a break with insurance because she’s liable for that dog,” Gomez said. “At the hearing, she agreed with the judge and city attorney to pay my medical bills, plus got her request that the dog not be destroyed. Who knows – that dog is someone’s new neighbor now and I’m not sure they’re even aware of it.”

Moving forward

Five weeks after the attack, Gomez feels his physical wounds are mostly healed. There is still apprehension about going on daily runs and walks, and that apprehension is fed the stories he still hears from other residents in Lyons about dogs on the loose.

“I just can’t stress enough that I’m not talking just about pit bulls,” he said. “We have a dog problem. I wanted to raise awareness but people need to step up.”

That is why Gomez and other concerned residents have expressed interest in forming a group to address the dog problem. “If we can get a crew of 20 people or more to talk to the city council,” Gomez said, “maybe something might just get done.”

Writer’s note: Multiple attempts were made to reach out to the city attorney’s office for comment but emails and phone calls were not returned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gomez was informed that, because his injuries came from a dog attack, they would not be covered by insurance.

Furthermore, Gomez is still shocked by the manner in which the case was handled. Authorities did not heed his warnings that this dog had been involved in at least two other attacks on another dog and another person, nor was any warning given to residents near the dog’s new home.

 

 

Frustration of trying to get bills to the right place and feels like he’s getting the run around.

 

Nobody cares. Nobody cares because it’s not their leg.

 

All bills before insurance $878.37 with some blood work still pending.

 

Insurance paid all but 35 of 116 dollars on x-ray of collarbone. Paid most of prescription bills.

 

 

 

 

Has heard from five people with incident of one dog.

 

Frustrated that people have come to him with public messages but wont share their story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITEMS I’M STILL AFTER:

Any official documentation this dog was involved in previous attacks (I need to call/email reno and look at that facebook account you mentioned…just a time issue and I’m skeptical it will pay off)

A total of medical bills/expenses associated with attack

Any fines paid/waived in relation to the case (my understanding is they were waived in lieu of paying your med bills…but that’s your statement. I need it officially! J )

Does the city notify the area where the dog will be placed?

If the dog is deemed vicious enough to be removed from Lyons, does the city worry about any liability of placing a the dog in another community?

 

Having seen the police report I can ask the city:

Do you feel this report represents the severity of the dog attack?

Is there no way to differentiate, legally, between a mauling and a bite, other than a victim statement?

 

Let me know of anything else you’d like me to ask. Again, I don’t expect much from them but I’ll definitely try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the typical public hears of a dog bite, I think they think of a dog nipping someone where they have two or four teeth marks and you have small scabs and they heal up. My bites are a mauling. They tore me up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoke with judge next day who apologized and said he blew it. Said could not change verdict. If he had known it dragged him down and known about severity of attack, would have ordered it down.

 

Told to list every expense, including all medical bills and torn clothing.

 

DETMER

We did a dog bite report. The owner was issued cititions for visiouc animal and dog at large, those types of things.

 

They impounded the dog, the owner had to pay all costs, fines, and vet fees, and they were ordered to remove the dog from Lyons, which they did.

 

I figure if they did a verbal interview and just put it down in the report. On those, we’ve done that a lot of times. It depends on the magnitude. Not that his bit was a magnitude thing because it pulled him down. There’s a dog bite report, tickets were issued, and it was impounded. We take those things very serious.

 

On bites, we have a special form that is an animal bite report. When you go on those, you make sure the public is safe.

After the officer gets there, it’s to be determined if the animal is caught up on shots. If it has bitten and it’s bad like Montey’s, it’s impounded until court, period. We go through quite a bit on those because we check for updates on rabies shots and updates to see if it’s been registered with the city of Lyons.

 

That’s up to the judge (any decision re: attack)

 

BURGESS

Sentences are pretty standard.

 

No hearing because owners stipulated, which is basically no contest. Had pled not guilty would have proceeded to hearing.

 

Wasn’t a hearing because she stipulated. City tries to get cases resolved quickly due to costs.

 

3:20 of part II. Recommended putting dog down. Because info provided in court, did not put dog down.

 

 

Hey guys – Mike at the Lyons News. I am hoping to run the story about Montey Gomez’s dog bite later this week. At this point, it’s around a 1,900-word story that is pretty straight-forward narrative: what he was doing when he was attacked, how it affected him, how it was handled as it pertains to him.

 

Thoughts on it going through insurance first

Total time spent trying to figure out where to submit bills

 

 

 

I expect the story will change later this week depending on any response(s) I get from the city. I would like all sides to be represented in the story.

 

Here are some final pieces to the story I’m trying to track down this week.

  • As the victim, would Montey have been contacted about the emergency hearing the Monday following the attack? By his telling, he just happened upon that information when he called the city attorney’s office that morning. (It is my understanding the hearing pertained to the case against the dog owners so perhaps no one was under any obligation to let him know…trying to clear that up).
  • Montey claims to have evidence the dog involved in his attack was involved in previous attacks. Did anyone with the city make an attempt to verify that information before the hearing/issuing a judgment? Is it standard practice to not take a written statement from the victim in these instances? The police report is pretty short and does include some important details but reading it myself, I might not get the full gravity of the attack.
  • Does the policy of putting down a dog or moving it out of city limits open the city to liability (if a dog is dangerous enough to be removed from the city, is it not too dangerous for other locations?)
  • From the report, I gather the owner of the dog was issued two citations: one for vicious animal and one for animal at large. Is there no distinction here between a small bite and a more vicious attack? (State statute 21-6418 pertains to permitting a dangerous animal to be at large, a misdemeanor…was it considered)?
  • By Montey’s account, he attended the emergency hearing, had the opportunity to speak, and the fines were waived in lieu of the owner paying his medical bills. Can anyone confirm this? Is it standard to waive fines due to the city for breaking the ordinance?
  • Finally, what enforcement power does the city have to ensure the owner does pay the medical bills?

 

Again, I am hoping to run this story later this week. I have heard Montey’s side of the story and I believe that is enough to accurately tell the story. However, I did hope to have something from the city in there so I hope to hear from you early this week and we can go from there.

 

I do believe it is an important story because perhaps Montey’s injuries would have been worse had he been wearing different clothes, or if it had been a child walking by, etc. So beyond his own story, this becomes a public safety story about how the city handles vicious dog attacks. Is it adequate? Are there any policies that help/hinder handling cases like this. I would just like the city to be represented in the story.

 

Thanks in advance,

Mike Courson

 

(620) 797-1243

 

 

816 729 3551 terry

 

 

 

 

Montey – sorry for the emails but just showered and I do my best thinking in there! Wanted get it down before I forget:

 

Here’s my goal for next week:

  • Email the city over the weekend. That gives them Monday-Wednesday to get back to me, hopefully Monday or Tuesday.
  • I’ll let you know what I get and we can go from there. Ideally, we can agree on a story to run Friday (so I’d like to have it done by Thursday morning).
  • Points of contention: You say they waived the fines in lieu of them paying your med bills. While that’s nice for the city to think about your bills, that would mean there’s really nothing punitive about letting a vicious dog attack someone. If you’re speeding and pay an accident, I’m pretty sure you always get the speeding ticket even if you end up paying their bills. I would take a comment on that, especially if you still have not received any compensation.
  • Judge told me these things are a “case by case” basis yet said he never sees the details of the attack. You basically didn’t get a chance to talk, etc. I’d take a comment about this part of the process…how can officials make legitimate judgments without details?
  • Emphasis on the clothes you wore. It was a vicious attack and you were saved by your clothes. Should what you wear (and how it protects you) impact the way the law is applied to a vicious attack? In other words, had you been in running shorts or been a kid, likely the injuries would have been more severe with the exact same attack. What would they have done then? I can’t opinionate about this in a news story but if it’s a quote…

 

 

 

 

 

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