SNOW HILL, N.C. — A Rottweiler fatally mauled a 2-year-old boy Tuesday afternoon after the child had wandered away from his grandparents' house, authorities said.
Julius Graham was taken to Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, where he was pronounced dead.
"This incident with the dog was really unexpected because they are normally kept in the pen," said Nina Estrada, the boy's cousin.
Greene County Sheriff Lemmie Smith said authorities received several calls reporting the incident and that officers arrived on scene within four minutes of the first phone call.
Officers found the grandmother sitting with the boy, trying to protect him from the dog, Smith said.
"The dog was still running toward them, growling in a vicious manner. The deputy had to pull his gun and shoot the dog," he said.
Officers shot and killed the dog after it started acting vicious toward them, he said.
It appeared the animal had dug a hole under a fence and got out of its pen, Smith said.
Katona and Johnny Ormond, owners of the dog, were out of town on a cruise, and a family member was caring for the dog.
Smith said the Ormonds called him Wednesday to get the details of the incident.
"They heard what happened and wanted to know exactly what happened. I told them, and they broke down," he said.
"No one is upset with the neighbors," Estrada said. "The dog was acting on instinct, and the baby didn't know any better, either. So, we're sad, and we're sad for the (dog's) owners."
Linda Sewall, director of Greene County's health department, said the case is being turned over to the district attorney to determine if charges will be filed against the Ormonds.
But Smith said he doesn't see criminal intent and doesn't believe the dog's owners violated any laws.
Neighbors and investigators said they've never had any complaints about the dog before.