A homeless man was found dead Monday morning in the Fresno River bed near the area of Cleveland Avenue and Raymond Road, according to the Madera Police Department.
Sgt. Mark Trukki said the unidentified man was found in thick overgrowth near an encampment of three tents about 7 a.m., as fire crews were extinguishing a small brush fire.
“The precise cause of death is pending autopsy,” Trukki said, “but the man had significant bite wounds to his head, neck, face, arms and legs. A loose, white male pitbull with blood on its muzzle briefly charged officers as they first entered the scene. The second time it charged and did not stop ... so they shot the dog, and had to shoot it several times to finally stop its attack.”
Trukki said it was not known how many or whether any other dogs were involved in the attack, but authorities found five other dogs of various breeds tied to adjacent trees and they were believed to be owned by other homeless people in the area. Those dogs were also removed and taken to the Madera County Animal Shelter, Trukki said. “This department takes this issue seriously. Any residents seeing large, loose, aggressive dogs should beware and report them to the police department and animal control immediately.” he said.
The deceased man was mauled so badly authorities are attempting to establish his identity by his tattoos. It is not known whether the man was possibly sleeping or impaired, under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time he died.
Animal shelter authorities say roaming or stray dogs are much more dangerous because they have the instinct to form groups or “pack up” for hunting and survival purposes, and to protect their territories, especially during breeding seasons of spring and fall.
Madera Chief of Police Dino Lawson said “CDF first got the call for a medical (situation) this morning. Madera Police were called when the deceased was discovered. It’s way too early and we don’t want to jump to conclusions but a call had been received in the area the night before about an aggressive dog. We went down (into the riverbed) then and couldn’t find the dog or the person who reported it. This morning as we were processing the scene (the dog) charged numerous times and it wouldn’t go down. It had blood all over it’s face. With the help of the county ... animal shelter we swept the area and picked up every (dog) we could find, pending the investigation,” he said.
Lawson said the time of death was still being established but the dense overgrowth of the riverbed also contributed to the problem of patrolling the areas of the homeless encampments and the potential for dangerous attacks by dogs kept or abandoned by the homeless.
Residents have long complained about large, loose dogs owned by the homeless in or near the riverbed, claiming they are reluctant or even afraid to use the river trail alone, with their children or pets because of the fear of possibility of being attacked.
The incident is the second major dog mauling in the Raymond Road area in the last few years. Another homeless man was pulled down and badly mauled about the face, arms and neck, by several large pit mix dogs, dogs kept for protection by a homeless woman living in the same area of brush in the Fresno River bed. The man survived, but underwent multiple surgeries. Those dogs were also seized and the ones believed to be responsible were euthanized.
Toxicology and tests for Rabies are pending. No other injuries were reported.