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Charges filed in fatal mauling by pit bull

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The father of a 7-year-old boy who was fatally mauled by a pit bull was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday.

While Zachary King Sr., 30, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, the state’s sentencing guidelines would call for probation if he’s convicted of second-degree manslaughter since he doesn’t have a criminal record, prosecutors said.

Zachary King Jr. died Aug. 16. His family speculated the boy had gone down in the basement of their home to get a puppy. Police said the male pit bull tied up there, which had previously bitten the boy and at least two adults, went for the boy’s throat.

The father got a gun and killed the dog, and was injured by the dog himself, but the boy was pronounced dead at a hospital of severe blood loss and asphyxia. The autopsy revealed that the dog bit the boy with such force it severed a vertebra.

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The criminal complaint alleged that the father "knowing his dog had a vicious propensity, failed to properly confine his dog and such failure caused the death" of his son.

Zach Jr. had a scar on his lip from a previous attack by the same dog, the complaint said.

One of the other people bitten by the dog named Face was a man installing a neighbor’s fence. He sued the family and was paid over $22,000 in a settlement.

Zachary King Sr. told WCCO-TV he feels what happened was a tragic accident, not a crime. He said losing a child is the ultimate punishment for any parent.

"It’s a tragedy in our family," he said. "I just lost my only son and now they’re trying to press charges against me like I killed my son or something? It’s not right."

King suggested that the recent outrage about Atlanta Falcons star Michael Vick’s dogfighting case is why prosecutors are being tough on him.

"Just because Michael Vick and all this pit bull stuff going on ... they want to make a big issue over it. I don’t know what’s going on," he said.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office struggled with whether to charge King. But he said the facts of the case precisely meet the requirements of the law: that an animal must be properly confined when it has a history of attacking people.

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"It’s also a message to all those who have pit bulls out there. If they’ve got them chained up and they’ve got kids running around, they don’t mix," Freeman said.

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