When a group of men forced their way into a Tampa home Tuesday night, Legend the dog wasted no time trying to protect his people.
The gentle giant sprang into action, biting one of the men, as the home’s occupants struggled with their attackers.
Legend, described as a bullmastiff mix, took two bullets in the attack – one in the side of the head. Even so, he was able to help scare the men off.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Legend was taken by the county’s animal control department for treatment at a local veterinary hospital.
Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Melissa Kincheloe was able to visit with Legend Wednesday and reports he’s expected to recover nicely. The critter even posed for a few photographs while Kincheloe was with him. He was released back into his owner’s care to rest up at home later that day.
The incident that led to Legend’s shooting began to unfold around 11:14 p.m. Tuesday as the dog’s owner, Damien Strickland, 25, was standing outside his home in the 9400 block of Polak Drive. Strickland noticed several men walking towards him and attempted to go back inside.
Strickland, however, was struck from behind by a firearm, the sheriff’s office said. He was then dragged inside the home as he tried to struggle with the attackers.
Strickland’s girlfriend, Mersadie Wells-Shahan, 19, and her mother, Brenda Cronk, 45, tried to come to his aid.
So did Legend.
When the shots were fired at the dog, the women, deputies say, started to scream, prompting the attackers to flee the home.
When deputies arrived, they established a perimeter and located two men matching the descriptions the victims provided. The suspects were located at the corner of Ellicot Street and Falkenburg Road. One of the subjects, identified as Michael Jovahnny Rivera, 23, by deputies, was trying to conceal his left hand, the email said.
“Deputies observed blood on his pants and noted puncture wounds on his left hand which appeared to be consistent with a fresh dog bite,” the email said.
Tuesday night’s rains forced deputies to stop their search for evidence, but they picked it back up again Wednesday morning. During their search of the area, a .40 caliber Taurus firearm with two loaded magazines and a roll of duct tape was found near the intersection where deputies encountered Rivera and the other suspect.
As of Thursday, only Rivera had been charged in the crime, but the sheriff’s office anticipates other arrests soon. Rivera faces aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, armed home invasion and felony animal cruelty charges.
Strickland suffered lacerations to his head and back and has swelling on his left eye following the attack. Wells-Shahan suffered minor injuries to her head while the suspects were trying to tie her up with duct tape, the sheriff’s office noted.
Wells-Shahan credits Legend for making sure the outcome wasn’t worse.
“That dog saved my life,” she told Bay News 9.
Photos courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office/Melissa Kincheloe