Oxnard Police Sgt. Charles Hookstra was on his way to work Thursday when he saw a pit bulldog chase a woman into her car outside a Casitas Springs market and then turn on a 10-year-old boy.
The off-duty officer wheeled his car into the parking lot of Casitas Market and tried to distract the dog just as it was beginning to attack Justin LaMonte, who was riding his bicycle home after running an errand for his father.
Hookstra said Friday that he was hoping he wouldn't have to shoot the pit bull, named Bully. But after the dog bit the boy and charged toward him, the officer pulled his 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and shot the animal in the right hind leg.
"I didn't want to kill it," Hookstra said.
In the aftermath of the incident, however, county animal-control officers put the dog to sleep on Friday, reporting that it was the third time in less than a month that the pit bull had attacked local residents.
Kathy Jenks, director of the county Animal Regulation Department, said the pit bull was one of several dogs owned by Janet and Tony Peters, who reside across the highway from Casitas Market.
Since 1989, she said, the family's pit bulls have been responsible for several bite incidents, including two attacks on Aug. 29 that involved Bully.
In one of those incidents, an adult bicyclist was attacked while riding on a trail, Jenks said. Another child was attacked as he walked his own pit bull past the family's home, she said.
Ed LaMonte, 45, father of the boy who was attacked Thursday, said he sent his son to the market to get a couple of Coca-Colas.
"I sent him over to the market, and then I began to realize that he was gone longer than he should have been," LaMonte said.
When the elder LaMonte heard gunshots, he decided he should find out what was happening.
"It tried to pull him off his bicycle," he said. "And that's when it turned and went after Sgt. Hookstra."
Justin LaMonte said he was bitten by the dog just after he crossed California 33 from the market toward his home. The dog jumped up at him and bit him on the right buttock, he said.
"The dog snapped at me a couple of times. I was just thinking of getting away," he said. "I thought I should get home and get fixed."
Neither Janet nor Tony Peters could be reached Friday, but a daughter, Josephine Peters, said she had no comment about the incident. A man who identified himself as C. J. Morton, a resident at the Peters house, said he thought Bully may have been provoked.
Morton said a school bus stops directly in front of the Peter driveway, and added that he has seen children taunting and teasing the dogs owned by the family.
"The kids aggravate the dogs," Morton said. "None of the dogs act like this."
Morton said he has called the school district on several occasions to ask that the bus stop be moved. But, according to Morton, the district has taken no action.
LaMonte and other residents of the area, however, take a different view of where to place responsibility for the dog attack.
Jose Luis Garcia, 25, a house painter who has been working next door to the Peters residence, said the dogs have been a nuisance for many workers in the area.
"I kept them at bay with a shovel," Garcia said. "All the guys around here have had problems with the dogs."
When asked if he had ever approached the pets' owners, Garcia stated that the owners were not very friendly.
Justin, who is recovering from the bite, said a woman came out of the Peters house after the attack and blamed him for provoking the dog.
"She cussed at me, and she said it was my fault," he said.
While Justin has been riding his bicycle to the market for the past month, his father said he will wait until things get better before he allows his son to venture there alone in the future.
"It is sad that it comes down to this," said LaMonte.
The attack Thursday was Ventura County's second this month involving pit bulls.
On Sept. 18, Abraham Rodkin of Oxnard killed a pit bull after it attacked his 10-year-old spaniel mix, Kulo. Rodkin struggled with the pit bull after it attacked his dog on the doorstep of his home.
Rodkin stabbed the dog in its abdomen with a 14-inch butcher knife. He suffered a broken hand and bites to his thigh, left arm and abdomen. His spaniel mix underwent surgery for a ripped ear and a bite to the leg.