Construction worker intervenes after pit bull attacks man in St. Louis Park

St. Louis Park Police Chief John Luse, center, and Officer Terrance Reuvers, left, thanked construction worker Derrick “Geronimo” Johnson for his efforts to intervene in a pit bull attack. (Submitted photo)
St. Louis Park Police Chief John Luse, center, and Officer Terrance Reuvers, left, thanked construction worker Derrick “Geronimo” Johnson for his efforts to intervene in a pit bull attack. (Submitted photo)

A construction worker and a 9-year-old boy came to the aid of a man after a pit bull killed his Yorkshire terrier and attacked him.

After the attack began, Marshall Schmitz summoned Derrick “Geronimo” Johnson, who had been working on the Hwy. 100 project.

When police arrived at the scene, 2823 Toledo Ave., they found Johnson using a 4×4 piece of wood to push the pit bull off of the bloodied man, Galen Carlson, according to a St. Louis Park police report.

Officer Terrance Reuvers said he grabbed the pit bull by the collar with both hands and some of the dog’s skin while Johnson grabbed the dog’s back legs. Officer Michael Merwin said he pulled his squad car up next to Reuvers and used a roll of gauze from his medical bag to wrap around the dog’s snout.

Police worked together to move the dog into the squad car. Hennepin County Medical Center paramedics arrived to treat Carlson’s injuries, which were on his hands, arms and legs. They eventually transported him to the hospital.

Police said the Yorkshire terrier was already dead when they arrived.

A neighbor told Merwin that the dog had previously attacked her dog, which she had reported to police. The owner said the dog, Tanner, was not in the back yard where he should be.

The owner identified the dog in the squad car as his. He said he had let the dog out into the back yard about 30 minutes before police arrived. The back yard has a 6-foot fence. Police determined the lock to the gate was in good working order, but that there was no other way the dog could have exited the back yard.

“I did notice that the gate did have to be pushed rather hard to get it to secure,” Officer Todd Hinz wrote in his report.

The owner acknowledged the dog has been aggressive toward other dogs. About two years ago, he said Tanner pushed through his front screen door and bit a neighbor’s dog, according to the police account.

The dog was euthanized July 22 by voluntary agreement with the owner, said St. Louis Park Communications and Marketing Manager Jacqueline Larson.

Carlson told police he had been walking his dog north on Toledo Avenue when he saw the pit bull walking south on Toledo. Carlson said he picked up his dog, but the pit bull jumped on him and knocked him to the ground, Reuvers wrote in his report.

Johnson, who is employed with CS McCrossan Construction, said he initially thought he saw a tarp blowing in the wind, according to the police report. However, when he moved closer, he realized the pit bull had been attacking a victim on the ground.

Johnson returned to the construction site to grab the board. After he pulled the pit bull off the victim, he initially let the pit bull go, but it kept coming at them, prompting Johnson to use the 4×4 to push the dog back.

Daniel Ohnstad, a neighbor of Carlson’s, said in an interview with the Sun Sailor that he noticed the situation after a squad car passed by his house. The police officers and Johnson had to fight to get the dog in the police cruiser because it kept wanting to return to attack Carlson, he said.

Ohnstad said Carlson spent nine hours in the hospital and had sustained severe bites to his hands and facial scrapes.

“He’s just devastated about it,” Ohnstad said.

He credited Johnson’s actions for saving Carlson’s life.

“Everybody’s upset with the traffic with Minnetonka (Boulevard) down,” Ohnstad said. “But if it wasn’t for that construction worker, my neighbor would be dead, and that’s all there is to it.”

He added, “If you’ve got a big dog, you’d better make sure you know what you’re doing with it.”

‘Just glad to help out’

In an interview, Johnson said he nearly sustained injuries himself during the struggle with the pit bull but added that he became upset when he saw what the pit bull had done to the little dog.

He said some people had been watching when he arrived.

“That was appalling to me,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, who would go in there? You see a dog attack a man and it’s vicious; you don’t know if it has rabies. I guess other things went through other people’s heads. When I saw what was going on, I had to approach it and try to stop it.”

Johnson said he slammed the pit bull’s head into the ground, prompting it to release the other dog. However, then it bit Carlson. He said he punched the pit bull in the side of the ear, after which the dog yelped and let go of Carlson, giving him an opportunity to lay on the dog.

“It was horrible,” Johnson said. “It was not a good situation. I guess I never even second-guessed jumping on that dog and trying to get him off. It was hard, man. He almost got me twice.”

Johnson said he would advise other people in such a situation not to try to save their pet and risk injury themselves from a vicious animal. However, he said he could not watch someone else be attacked without intervening.

“I got to do something,” he said. “I just have to. That’s how I am.”

While he said he had been heading down the street anyway, he said Marshall contributed to the response. Marshall watches the construction work from behind safety lines so often that someone gave him a hard hat and safety vest.

“He’s been a good kid,” Johnson said.

While Johnson said he doesn’t see his own actions as heroic, he joked that word has it his fiance is making him a cake.

Johnson said, “I was just glad to help out.”

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]