Cruiser cam shows Cincinnati police shoot, kill two pit bulls mauling 6-year-old girl

Officer describes horror

> Watch Tom McKee's reports and clips from the cruiser cam video in the player above.

> Watch the first dramatic 75 seconds of the police video in the player below or see the entire video (6:36) here.

CINCINNATI – Family members praised police officers as heroes after watching startling, heart-wrenching video of them shooting and killing two pit bulls mauling their 6-year-old girl on the sidewalk, then reacting quickly and compassionately to keep her alive until paramedics could arrive.

After the shooting, you can see officer Michael Bricker kneeling next to the girl, cradling her in his arms and raising her head to clear her airway of blood so she wouldn't choke.

The cruiser cam video also captures the dramatic moment when one dog turned on an officer. You can't see the mauling or the horrible injuries the dogs caused to Zainabou Drame's face and neck after knocking her to the ground.

"We couldn't believe she was still alive, based on what we saw," Officer Kyle Strunk said.

(Story continues below)

The girl's grandfather, Leslie McElrath Jr., watched the video Friday with tears in his eyes.

"Oh my god," he exclaimed, then sobbed and dropped his head.

Later, incredibly, when another call about a vicious dog brought officers back to the neighborhood, McElrath hugged them and told them:

"Your job is thankless and it's dangerous. When I saw the tapes, that guy didn't even think about it. He could have gotten mauled by that dog.

"He saved my granddaughter and I thank God for that. That's from my heart."

Officer Strunk said nothing could have prepared him and two other Cincinnati cops for what they saw when they drove up, sirens blaring, in front of a house in Westwood on Wednesday.

"It looked like (the dogs) were playing with a lightweight chew toy," Strunk said.

POLL: When it comes to dogs that attack and injure humans, what do you think? To vote, go to the front page of WCPO.com.

An hysterical neighbor's 911 call sent the officers racing to the scene.

"There's a dog at 2965 Aquadale and it's a pit bull and he's eating up a little baby," the caller screamed.

"We knew what we were going to see," Strunk said, "but when you saw it and you pulled up, you couldn't believe what you saw."

They jumped out of their cars and drew their weapons.

"I talked to them this morning," the girl's grandfather said, "and they said they couldn't shoot because the dog had the baby in its mouth and they didn't want to shoot the baby."

Strunk said they acted quickly to draw the dogs' attention, putting the officers at risk themselves.

"One of the officers went around one side of her," Strunk said. "When he did that, the brown dog saw him, let go of the child and went toward him. That's when he was able to start firing shots," Strunk said.

Both dogs started to run down the sidewalk past Strunk and the other officer. As they shot and killed the brown dog, the other dog ran toward the side of the house.

One officer followed it and shot it, Strunk said.

Bricker returned to help the girl while one officer called in and the other made sure the scene was safe.

"(Bricker) was as heroic a person as I've ever seen in my entire life," Strunk said. "Held her in his arms, saved her life … held her hand and talked to her."

Anguished neighbors came out, saw the girl's condition and turned away in horror.

"It's the worst thing I've ever seen in almost 10 years as a police officer," Strunk said.  "It's really indescribable and something no person should ever have to see ... something we'll never forget."

Zainabou's mother, Danina, said she beat the brown dog with a baseball bat before police arrived but couldn't loosen its grip on the girl.

"I saw the dog on her face. I ran back in the house and I got the bat and starting hitting the dog to try to get off of her and he would not let her go.  After that, I don't know, I heard … I went and sat somewhere.  I almost passed out," she said.

"If I had a firearm, I would have tried to shoot the dog off of her like the police did."

Despite the tragedy, the family's hearts are filled with love and hope.

"I just want to thank my family and the community and the police department," Zainabou's mother said.

Her grandfather added:

"This is a concerted effort of people in the neighborhood.  The police officers and everyone doing their job and hopefully they gave her just enough help to help her get through this."

As Zainabou remained in critical but stable condition at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, her family asked for prayers and put their faith in God.

"You know, I named my granddaughter 'Little Happy,' " McElrath said. "You're going to get happy again.

"Thank you, Lord."

MORE: Zainabou's family describes the attack
RELATED: Pit bull ordinances vary around the Tri-State


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