Galesburg boy dies after dog attack; city in fear, disbelief

By Anna Yee

March 4, 2013 Updated Mar 4, 2013 at 11:13 PM CDT

GALESBURG, Ill. -- There's an empty desk at Nielson Elementary School, the desk of Ryan Maxwell, 7, who was attacked and killed by a dog this weekend.

His second grade teacher, Travis Stecher, and classmates are filling the void with cards and memories they have made.

"Just an amazing kid, a good student, a good friend. He's really going to be missed," said Stecher.

Galesburg Police officers responded to 675 Whiting Avenue at 1:03 p.m. Saturday on a report of child attacked by a dog.

Police said officers found the dog biting the child. They were able to disengage the dog from the child but the dog then turned on the officers, who had to shoot it to prevent further attacks on officers or others nearby.

Ryan was transported to Cottage Hospital, was treated and later died from injuries sustained in the attack.

He was pronounced dead by the Knox County Deputy Coroner at 1:41 p.m.

Authorities said Ryan was playing in the backyard with some friends and the owners were home at the time.

Neighbors we spoke with off camera said they were terrified of the pit bull and have made multiple calls to animal control in the past, but could never prove the dog was dangerous.

Police call the attack a rare and sad incident.

"I can't remember it ever happening in my 24 years here," said Captain Rod Riggs, of the Galesburg Police Department. "Have we had dog bites? Yes, like every other city has. Have we had dog attacks? Yes, like any other city has, but not to this extent. This is a tragedy. There's no other way to put it."

Grief counselors will be on hand at Nielson Elementary all week.

"We want the kids to understand that this is not a little toy poodle or chihuahua that caused this," said Matthew LaClere, Principal of Nielson Elementary. "We don't want them to be frightened of dogs, but we want them to be wary."

Others said it is not necessarily what kind of animal, but how it is cared for.

The Director of the Knox County Humane Society, who would not go on camera, did tell us that pit bulls have a bad reputation for being an aggressive breed, but she said an animal is what an owner makes it.

No charges have been filed and Galesburg Police and Illinois State Police are still investigating the case.

In the meantime, those closest to Ryan are keeping his memory alive.

Services for Ryan Aidden Maxwell are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 7 at Hinchliff-Pearson-West Galesburg Chapel. Rev. Kirk Kendall will officiate. Visitation will be 4:00-6:00 p.m. Wednesday at the chapel. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Memorials may be made c/o F & M Bank, in Ryan’s name to establish a memorial fund at a later date.

Online condolences maybe made at www.h-p-w.com

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