Pit bull owner charged in mauling

July 2, 2008 4:23:17 PM PDT
A 28-year-old Staten Island man was charged Wednesday with second-degree assault after his pit bulls mauled a 90-year-old man. James McNair remained in police custody in the 120 Precinct as authorities upgraded the charges against him.

The Staten Island District Attorney's Office authorized the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

McNair was also charged with possession of fireworks and leash law violations, according to authorities.

Officials say the charges would be upgraded to include manslaughter if the victim, Henry Piotrowski, dies. Piotrowski is currently in critical condition at Richmond University Medical Center. His leg has been amputated, and he may lose an arm and the other leg.

Authorities say McNair is a level 2 sex offender who was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl, along with several others, in 2002.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that authorities were called numerous times to the neighborhood about the pit bulls.

"There were nine calls to 911 about dogs in that neighborhood" in the last two months, Kelly said.

Kelly said the department was investigating if police acted appropriately during those calls.

"On some occasions, the dogs were taken back in the residence when police arrived," he said. "We're looking at it."

Witnesses said the dogs mauled Piotrowski until a neighbor, Reginald Bell, grabbed a knife, scared them off and called police.

"They ate him," Bell told reporters later. "They consumed this man."

"I've never seen so much blood in my life," neighbor Stephanie Morton said.

The dogs ran back home to 28-year-old McNair's house, where police officers tranquilized them and carried them away. The dogs later were euthanized and tested for rabies. Results were pending.