Man collapses and dies after fighting off pit bull

Published: Nov. 26, 2010 at 11:54 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2010 at 1:31 AM CST
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By Layron Livingston - bio | email

VAN ZANDT COUNTY, TEXAS (KLTV) - Van Zandt County Deputies were called to the scene of an intense dog fight, Thursday afternoon in the 200 block of County Road 1205.

Apparently, a pit-bull and a catahoula bulldog escaped from inside their owner's home, ran across the street, and attacked the neighbor's dog.

What happened moments later took investigators by surprise.

They're now calling 64-year-old Richard Martratt a hero.

They said he jumped in the middle of the dog fight to save his 78-year-old mother-in-law, Joan Hardin. Hardin was outside with the family dog, getting dishes from the car. The family had just made it back from an out-of-town Thanksgiving dinner.

Hardin was knocked to the ground and suffered a blow to the head. Richard wrestled with the catahoula bull dog; he used is pocket knife to stab the dog, but it wouldn't go down. The pit bull bit Richard's brother-in-law in the leg before running back home across the street.

We're told Kathy Rogers, the dog's owner, also tried breaking up the scuffle. Richard eventually sent for his gun, fired at least three shots into the animal, killing the bull dog.

Susan Martratt was only married to her husband for two short years. "He died protecting his family, and he wouldn't have it any other way," she said.

Susan was preparing to take her dog to the vet shortly after the fight ended when her brother came in to tell her Richard had collapsed.

"Richard, in my opinion, is a hero," said Deputy Roland Davis with the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office. Davis was the first on-scene. He said he questioned Richard about the incident and was there when he collapsed.

"Without even thinking twice, he jumped in and grabbed hold of this animal. Not many people would have done that with an animal with the reputation of a pit bull," said Davis.

Paramedics on the scene tried, but could not save Richard. He'd suffered what is believed to be a heart attack.

"I don't know if there are any criminal charges that we'll file because the dogs were actually fighting each other, and the humans intervened," said Sheriff Pat Burnett.

Canton Animal Control officers did show up at Michael Miller's home, Friday morning. Miller had to hand over his pit bull to authorities to be quarantined.

"Richard over reacted, and it killed him," Miller said. "I'm sorry."

Miller said his neighbors are the best friends that he ever had.

Hardin, Richard's mother-in-law, was treated and released from the hospital, Thursday night. Their dog is still alive and is being treated at a local vet for it's injuries.

The pit bull will remain in quarantine for 10 days and authorities will determine whether the dog is dangerous, or if can be returned to it's owner. Burnett said it will likely be put down.

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