HESPERIA: 4-year-old mauled by father’s Rialto police dog
HESPERIA >> Neighbors and Rialto police officials are calling a Hesperia man a hero after he ran through a wooden fence to save a 4-year-old boy from his father’s police dog over the weekend.
“If it wasn’t for Jeff (Houlemard) and those who were there, this could have turned deadly,” said Rialto Capt. Randy DeAnda.
The 4-year-old’s injuries were so severe, the child did lose his foot, DeAnda said.
“I think about my own kids and how this really could have happened to anyone,” said Houlemard, who added that he’s not comfortable with the idea of someone calling him a hero.
Houlemard was at his home Sunday afternoon on Nantucket Street when his son, Logan, 13, and his friend, 14-year-old Anthony Montalvo, ran into the house yelling for the father of four to call 9-1-1.
Houlemard rushed outside, then he and a neighbor ran toward the house of Rialto police officer Michael Mastaler.
“I could hear him yelling before I even got to the driveway,” Houlemard, a Navy veteran, said.
He saw the dog, named Jango, shaking the young boy by the leg and ran through the side gate, knocking the fence over.
As Houlemard freed the boy’s leg from the dog’s grip, his son and Montalvo rushed the boy to safety.
At that point, Mastaler came outside, put the dog away and tended to his son.
DeAnda said an initial investigation shows Mastaler left his child alone for about two minutes before the attack took place.
Houlemard’s wife, Shannon, tried to keep the boy calm by singing his ABCs and 123s with him.
“I was just trying to keep his mind off what just had happened,” she said.
Authorities learned that Mastaler who has worked on patrol, gangs, narcotics and as a member of the Inland Valley SWAT team, had closed up the house, including the sliding glass and screen doors leading into the back yard, before going upstairs to change. The officer’s wife had gone shopping and took the couple’s infant with her, said DeAnda.
The boy was playing video games when it appears the boy began to look for his mother, DeAnda said.
The boy walked outside into the back yard where the attack took place.
“We don’t know what triggered the attack,” DeAnda said. “Right now, we just don’t know.”
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Hesperia Animal Control have launched an investigation into the attack, said DeAnda.
“We are also conducting our own administrative investigation,” DeAnda said.
The dog is currently under a 10-day quarantine and is being housed at a Riverside kennel.
“The dog’s fate lies in what the investigation reveals,” said Rachel Molina, spokeswoman for the city of Hesperia.
While Jango has no prior incidents of biting when not ordered to, DeAnda said it’s more likely than not that the dog will not be returning to duty at the department.
“I can’t even remember the last time he bit a suspect,” DeAnda said.
Most neighbors in the quiet Hesperia neighborhood called the attack a very unfortunate accident.
“I have a dog,” said Houlemard, “And it does make you think, but I really think it was just a tragic accident.”