Girl's family says 6-year-old suffered horrific injuries in pit bull attack in Westwood

Brother, mom, family dog come to the rescue

CINCINNATI -- "There's a pit bull out here eating a little baby!"

That was the chilling 911 call from a woman who saw two pit bulls maul a 6-year-old girl in front of a house in  Westwood Wednesday evening.

As Zainabou Drame fought for her life Thursday, her family prayed and recalled the horrific attack - and how her brother, her mother and her own dog came to her rescue against the pit bulls.

"They grabbed her on the side of the jaw and basically ripped her jaw out," said Zainabou's aunt, Gina Tyus.

Zainabou's father, Abdou, said he didn't recognize his daughter when he saw her at Children's Hospital.

"When I see her, I cannot handle it because it's so bad. All the face gone," he said.

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Family members said Zainabou was playing with her 9-year-old brother, Moustapha, in the 2900 block of Aquadale Lane about 6:15 p.m. when the dogs attacked. Their mother was inside their home. They said the children didn't provoke the dogs.

"They just took chase and they caught her," Tyus said. "She only weighs barely 40 pounds and the bigger dog was like a 90-pound dog."

Moustapha's quick thinking might have saved his sister's life.

"It started biting on her shorts and pants.  It tripped her over and the dogs started chewing all over her face," Moustapha said. "I got scared when I saw it and then I started crying. Then I started calling mom."

Hearing his cries, their mother, Darina, grabbed a baseball bat and ran to help.

"She took that bat and ran up there and beat them dogs off my granddaughter," said Leslie McElgrath Jr.

 The family's dog, Cappy, also rushed in to help rescue the girl.

"This dog, the dogs across the street, and some other dogs came out of their house and they started biting on the dog," Moustapha said.  "Then the dogs got off of her."

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When police arrived, the dogs turned toward the officers. Both dogs were shot and killed.

Zainabou is in critical but stable condition.

Her family thanked God she's still alive.

"She's still alive because I believe in God. I do," McElgrath said.

"Go to your faith and the trust that you have in the Lord and pray that he'll see us through," Tyus said.

Terrie Martin, a neighbor who was nearby during the attack, said she witnessed the dogs biting Zainabou. She said she was alerted to the attack after hearing a loud scream.

"I came out the door," she said. "I heard someone screaming first and I came out and seen two of the pit bulls, and they wouldn't get off of her."

Martin said she was surprised the dogs became violent.

"We've been neighbors for awhile and the dogs don't bother us," she said. "Just the other night a friend of mine drove up and they (the dogs) were out, and they were just sitting there watching me go to the car."

Neighbors say the dogs ran free but never attacked anyone until now.

Zainabou's father said that’s too dangerous now that school's out and kids are playing outside.

 "I think it's bad to keep big dogs, mean dogs in the city because kids play outside," he said. "These kids – it's summertime out, because school closed - they need to be outside."

Hamilton County SPCA took away a third pit bull.

Cincinnati police haven't commented on possible charges against the dogs' owner and they haven't released the owner's name yet, but one of the four officers who responded to the mauling said it's one of the worst things he's ever seen.

Officer Kyle Strunk had a hard time describing the dog attack, and said sleeping has been difficult.

"It’s really indescribable and something no person should ever have to see and something we’ll never forget," Strunk said. “I don’t want to get too graphic but I saw the brown dog, which was the bigger of the two dogs and he had the girl’s head in his mouth. He was slinging it around, thrashing his head back and forth with her in his mouth.”

Fortunately, when the officers showed up, they took the dogs' attention away from little Zainabou.

"You know right away you can’t just pull your gun and start shooting," Strunk said. "You have to get those dogs off of her. The last thing you want to do is accidentally shoot the girl.”

"You have to get those dogs off of her. One of the officers went around one side of her. When he did that, the brown dog saw him, let go of the child and went towards him. That’s when he was able to start firing shots. At that point, he got a couple shots off and the brown dog ran towards me and my partner's direction, and that’s when we fired our guns. That’s when we directed our fire at that dog. We eliminated that dog. The other dog ran towards the side of the house. That’s where another officer engaged that dog and eliminated that dog as well.”

Strunk said an officer held Zainabou in his arms until paramedics arrived.

“When you see a child, an innocent child that’s done nothing wrong and done nothing to deserve any pain, when you see what you saw yesterday, it’s certainly something you’ll never forget," Strunk

said.

Homicide Unit officials said they are investigating in case Zainabou dies from her injuries.

WCPO reporters Amy Wadas and Jason Law contributed to this report.

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