Call for help made officer vulnerable: "My mistake was I reached for my radio," a city policeman says. That's when an abandoned chow chow that had been chasing children bit him. David Mekeel, Reading Eagle - Pennsylvania - KRTBN Published: Jul 30, 2007
Reading police Officer Christopher Cortazzo decided the chase had lasted long enough.
The six-year veteran of the force and two other officers had responded to the 1000 block of Locust Street on Saturday night about 9 to help catch a loose dog that had been chasing children.
Cortazzo and the other officers ran after the chow chow to the nearby 11th and Pike Playground, then back again to Locust Street.
But now, face to face with the dog in an alley, Cortazzo's opportunity to end the escapade was at hand.
He grabbed the dog.
"I didn't have any fear, for the moment," the 41-year-old Cortazzo said Sunday. "But after I was on top of him I was thinking, 'Oh, my God.' I knew I had to stay on top because if I let it up there was going to be trouble."
With children standing nearby, Cortazzo needed help.
"My mistake was I reached for my radio," he said. "There was another officer there with a snare, and I didn't know if he knew where I was. That's when he (the dog) got me."
Cortazzo, who had gone to the block with Officers Darrin C. Smith and Gregory Zawilla, said the dog attacked as soon as he loosened his grip.
"He got me good in the hand," Cortazzo said. "He punctured the top and palm."
Cortazzo was treated in Reading Hospital for bites on both hands and wrists.
After Cortazzo was bitten, he let go of the dog, which he said scurried into a nearby yard.
There, Smith and Zawilla cornered it.
"It was growling and lunged at me," Smith said. "That's when I had to put it down with my Taser gun."
With the dog stunned, Zawilla placed the snare around its neck.
As Zawilla went to get his vehicle to take the animal to the Humane Society of Berks County Inc., he handed the snare to Sgt. Felix Carr, who had just arrived.
But the dog came to and started thrashing about in the snare, eventually strangling itself, police said.
"I'm an animal lover myself, so my first thought was to catch the dog and get it to the Humane Society," Smith said. "But after it bit him (Cortazzo), our only concern was subduing it so it didn't attack anyone else."
Carr said the dog had been left in a house in the 1000 block of Oley Street after the owner moved.
The case will be turned over to the Humane Society, Carr said. Officials there could not be reached Sunday.
Cortazzo said his main concern is dealing with the pain and getting back to work.
He said he expects to be off duty for about a week but is determined to get back in uniform by Sunday.
"We have the annual softball game on the fifth," he said, referring to the Battle of the Badges game to honor slain Officers Michael Wise and Scott Wertz. "I intend on being at that game."