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No charges in Pierce County UPS driver, dog attack case

Kevin Backlund after being treated for injuries following a vicious dog attack. (KIRO 7)
LISTEN: Attorney in dog attack civil case explains why there are no criminal charges

There will be no charges for the owner of a pack of pit bulls that attacked and nearly killed a UPS driver in Pierce County last year.

“I’m not surprise that they decided not to bring criminal charges,” said Attorney Chris Davis who represents the victim Kevin Backlund.

“When we are talking about criminal conduct, it’s really about intent of the dog owner, and whether the dog owner had prior knowledge of the viciousness of the dogs, and those dogs harming a human being prior to Mr. Backlund being attacked,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

RELATED: Woman prevents first responders from getting to man mauled by dogs

Backlund was delivering a package to a property in September 2017 when the dog attack happened. The driver was quickly assaulted by four pit bulls. He was able to crawl onto an open trailer bed with the dogs jumping and nipping from the ground. He called 911 while losing massive amounts of blood. When EMT personnel arrived, a woman on the property locked the gate to the site and would not let first responders help. She said the dogs were going to kill the UPS driver and he deserved it. The EMT driver rammed the gate to get to the victim.

Backlund received 138 stitches and is still recovering. Davis says he hopes to get back to work in a few months. The four dogs have been euthanized. Their owner called authorities after the dog attack to argue that the dogs were simply doing their jobs:

The dogs did what they were trained to do. He came onto our property. He untied the fence. I have rope that ties these gates. When I leave in the morning, they are tied … I feel bad for the guy. But the sad part about it, those dogs were doing their job. We have $3 million worth of equipment in that lot and the dogs were doing their job.

That statement was made on a 911 call. Despite it being on the record, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says that there was not enough evidence to make a case.

“How do we prove a case here?” Lindquist said. “There are two things we would have needed to prove to make the case. Number one: that the dogs caused severe injury to the victim. And two: that the owners knew or should have known that the dogs were dangerous. As to the first element, the injuries, no problem … that we can make. The second element is more difficult … you cannot prove this just by breed. In other words, you cannot argue that they are pit bulls and therefore they are dangerous.”

Dog attack case continues

Backlund is disappointed that the dog owner will not face criminal charges, Davis said. He explains that the prosecutor did not have the necessary evidence and witness testimony to make a charge stick.

“What the prosecutor really needs is for somebody to come forward to be able to testify in a court of law, in a criminal proceeding, that these dogs have attacked somebody before Mr. Backlund,” Davis said. “From my discussions with the prosecutor, they have had difficulty locating somebody to do that.”

“Our investigation has revealed that one or more neighbors … did have such knowledge that the dogs had previously attacked,” he said. “But I’m being told that these neighbors are reluctant to come forward. I think the prosecutor has found out that they are not cooperating.”

Authorities have also had difficulty finding the woman who prevented first responders from entering the property as the dog attack continued. Davis said that they think they know where she is at, but it has been difficult to locate her. There is no proof that the woman is an owner of the dogs, which doesn’t help the prosecutor’s case, he said.

Davis says that while there are currently no charges for the dog owner, that doesn’t mean information won’t arise in the future. Also, the prosecutor’s case does not relate to the civil case in which Davis is representing Mr. Backlund.

“Things could change,” Davis said. “Who knows what additional evidence or what new witnesses may come forward with more information that might cause the prosecutor to take another look?”

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