Man whose pit bull attacked woman on Manhattan subway charged

LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) -- Police have located and charged the 53-year-old owner of a pit bull that latched on to a 22-year-old woman's foot on the subway in Lower Manhattan Friday.

Ruben Roncallo, of Brownsville, Brooklyn, is charged with assault and harassment. Authorities say the dog is, in fact, a service dog and remains in Roncallo's custody. It is believed the animal is being cared for by family.

It happened around 4 p.m. Friday following a dispute between the pet owner and a woman on the downtown 4 train and was recorded by witness TahSyi Kyng, who was riding with his girlfriend to pick up their kids.

But Roncallo says he wasn't the instigator. "She attacked me first. She attacked me first," he said.

Witnesses say it started when the woman being attacked by the pit bull asked Roncallo to move his dog off the seat when it bumped her. Then they say she pushed the pit bull off repeatedly.

In the video, the pit bull can be seen latching onto the woman's shoe and refusing to release until the sneaker came off. Then the owner throws the shoe at the other riders before exiting the train at the Wall Street station.

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Police are investigating a pit bull attack on a subway (video courtesy TahSyi Kyng)

Eyewitnesses believe the people were the problem, not the pet. Kyng said the man sat down and put his dog on the seat, and as the dog lay down, it bumped the female passenger.

"She was like, 'The dog don't belong on the seat, that's an animal, people belong on the seat, put the dog on the floor,'" Kyng said. "And he looked at her like, I'm not moving my (expletive) dog.'"

From there, it went downhill quickly. Kyng said the woman first pushed the dog off the seat. The owner put him back up, and she shoved the dog off again. The owner responded with fists.

"He was like, 'Don't touch my dog,' and he started hitting," Kyng said. "They started fighting, and everybody tried to break it up. The dog latched onto her."

In the struggle to get the dog off, other passengers are heard yelling at the owner to have the dog release. The dog eventually let go, and the man threw the shoe.

After the man left, the conductor eventually came into the car to assist the female passenger. She lost her cell phone in the confusion, but no injuries were reported.

"Bringing a pit bull on board any of our subway systems is a violation of the law and the person who does that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said Wednesday, outraged because non-service animals should be contained on trains.

But Roncallo says his pit bull should be exempt from that rule, saying that it is a service dog.

"That dog was not vicious," eyewitness Denise Leon said. "It was just an incident that could have been avoided."

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