‘I thought I would die’: San Francisco man survives vicious pit bull attack in Potrero Hill

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

SAN FRANCISCO – A San Francisco man who survived a vicious attack by not one, but two pit bulls says he’s lucky to be alive. Pablo Rocha said he escaped being mauled to death by scaling a tall fence.

A short walk home from the gym near Alameda and Vermont streets took a terrifying, nearly fatal turn just after 6 p.m. on May 25 for Rocha. 

Surveillance video shows Rocha being taken down by two pit bulls. He tries to get up multiple times, but is attacked again and again.

Another camera captures his escape. Bloodied and battered, he climbs a nearby fence, as the two dogs circle below, inches again from his legs.  

“This is my blood, this is my blood,” he said pointing to the marks still left on the fence. 

Rocha underwent surgery and received 30 stitches in his upper arm at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

“I just remember the noise of my bicep muscle being stretched,” Rocha recalled. “In that moment, I thought I would die, I don’t believe I would die like this, I just thought I would die,” he said as he choked up. 

“I saw my friend was trying to help me, but the dogs were just ignoring him,” added Rocha. “This gate saved my life.”

Rocha’s friend Eduardo Pajeu tried unsuccessfully to fight the dogs with a water bottle, and ran to get help. Meanwhile, Rocha was left in the locked and enclosed space, pleading for help from passing drivers. Video shows him trying to get their attention.   

His phone had been tossed in the street during the attack.

“The cars just stopped and left, stopped and left,” he said. “More than 20 cars stopped, nobody helped.”

Rocha said police later told him the majority of the 911 calls received at that time, described him as a burglary suspect.

“The bites of the dogs hurt a lot, but to know the reason that they didn’t stop to help me was very painful,” Rocha said. 

Pajeu helped identify the dog owners from the nearby RV when officers arrived. Rocha said he walks by that particular RV on a daily basis, but had never seen the dogs or the owners. 

SFPD said it arrested two suspects, 39-year-old Hilary Flynn and 31-year-old Jesse Ali of San Francisco. The woman is facing charges, including failure to control a dangerous dog, resisting arrest and false impersonation. She also had outstanding warrants outside of San Francisco. Ali’s charges include resisting arrest and harboring, concealing, or aiding another person when you know they committed a felony crime. The court released the male suspect on his own recognizance with electronic monitoring and a stay away order from the victim.     

“It’s been the better part of seven years that we’ve been fighting to get our neighborhood cleaned up, and it gets cleaned up, it comes back,” said Robert Fountain, Rocha’s husband. “We call 3-1-1 constantly.”

Fountain, has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. In that time, he’s witnessed its degradation. 

He says the RV where the dogs emerged from had been parked under the freeway overpass for months.

“I’m on high alert from the time I leave the gym door, until the time I get inside my door, and that’s not right,” said Fountain, who lives two blocks away from the attack site. 

Fountain has spent three decades as an event designer, who has produced several of the city’s high-profile premiere opening night galas.   

“Had Pablo not been 6’6″ and 220 pounds and healthy, I’d be planning a funeral today,” Fountain said. “He would be dead, and the city that I love so much, and has given me so much… would have taken the thing that meant the most to me away,” he said as he grew emotional.  

Rocha, who has lived in San Francisco for about two years, said he hopes his story gets the attention of elected officials.

“It’s not like remove one dog – we have more situations,” he said. “I think the city of San Francisco is a beautiful place and we don’t need to lose this. Can you imagine that you travel to a city that is so famous, and you can be attacked by a pit bull and be killed by a pit bull from someone that lived on the street?”

Animal Care and Control confirmed to KTVU that they confiscated the dogs, but it would not elaborate on the process to determine their fate.

The preliminary hearing in this case is set for June 12. 

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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