Dog attack victim details vicious ordeal
Lying on his back in a hospital bed this week, Orlando Romero walked us through what it’s like to be attacked by your own 120-pound dog that is a Rottweiler-Pit bull combo.
“What came to my mind -- I was going to die,” the 38 year old said, recovering from wounds that required 150 stitches to close.
The vicious attack brought a team of cops to his house in Rockville five days ago.
They spent hours trying to catch the dog – who crashed into walls, busted a hole through the door of a bedroom where he was briefly contained, jumped on window sills and ignored several electronic rounds from a Taser -- even as Romero was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. After Romero came-to in the hospital, an officer asked for clearance to take things to the next level.
“You know the dog is still in the house. Is it okay if we get rid of the dog?” he asked, Romero recalled.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Go ahead.”
And so they did – two gunshots.
Romero hasn’t always seen things eye-to-eye with the police, as evidenced by an ankle monitor he wore below his hospital gown during our visit. Born in El Salvador, he emigrated to Washington, waited tables at an Italian restaurant in Bethesda and six years ago launched Romero’s Floors, an installation and refinishing operation.
At home two years ago, he found himself alone.
“I used to pray a lot. One of the prayers I had a vision, and God told me to get a pet, and name him Jesus (pronounced Hay-SOOS). And that’s how I got him. And he really did help me a lot.”
One such occasion, he said, was a police raid of his home last year. Officers thought he had many as seven handguns inside, which would have violated the terms of a protective order involving the mother of two of his children, according to court records. When the police came, Romero said, they were only too happy to keep him and Jesus behind a closed door.
As it turned out, officers found one gun, in a shed, and charged him with violation of the protective order. At his sentencing, Romero’s attorney, Neil Jacobs, argued that Romero had been holding the gun for a friend, it wasn’t loaded, and that he was a changed man who was spending a lot time at church. Romero avoided jail time, and got the ankle-bracelet.
And it has allowed him to keep installing floors, in a manner that even those he has crossed paths with say is done with gusto and skill, despite mounting health troubles: diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure.
The long days installing floors, he now thinks, caused Jesus to get restless alone in the house. Things weren’t necessarily helped by the introduction three months ago of his son’s Pit Bull puppy Chloe, because it may have made Jesus jealous. A month ago, Jesus snapped at one of his sons.
Thus set the stage for Saturday night, when Romero had some of his kids in for the weekend. He asked a son to walk on his back to relieve pain. Jesus walked in, with a menacing stare.
Romero stood up, and Jesus struck – biting him in the stomach. “After that he just kept attacking me,” Romero said.
Romero wrestled with Jesus, as the dog tore into his forearm. Romero tried to choke him, worried about his daughters. “I fight with him because I had my two little babies,” he said. “When he grabbed me, he was shaking me.”
They got out of his house, along with a son, who called the police.
Back inside, with his free hand, he said, “I put my fingers on his nose and I tear his nose up, and that’s how he let me go.”
Romero said he barely made it out of his bedroom, shut the door and headed for freedom -- crossing paths with an officer on his way in. Minutes later, he said, he was inside an ambulance, on his way to the hospital.
As he recalled the attack this week, several coworkers dropped by his hospital room along with his 16-year-old son Tony. At one point, Tony told his dad that the four shots to Jesus with a Taser seemed a bit much.
“That had to be done,” his father told him. “They gotta’ do what they gotta' do.”
Romero and his son also discussed upcoming flooring jobs. Tony will try to help run the business while dad is on the mend. Romero said he doesn’t have health insurance at his small company, and is looking at more than $20,000 in medical bills. He said it will take at least eight months to heal his right wrist, which may never be the same.
As for another dog, Romero thinks he may get a small poodle or a Chihuahua.
-- Dan Morse
December 3, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Dan Morse , Montgomery
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