DETROIT – A Detroit family is heartbroken after a 9-year-old girl on a bicycle was mauled to death by three dogs in an alleyway, according to officials.
Emma Hernandez died Monday when three pit bulls attacked as she rode her bicycle near her home in Southwest Detroit.
Police said she was near Central Avenue and Smart Street when the pit bulls escaped from a nearby yard.
Two people saw the attack and tried to save the girl, officials said.
"I saw three dogs on top of a little girl," resident Edward Cruz said. "So, I had no hesitation but to run up there, pick up a brick and throw it at the dogs."
Hernandez was rushed to a nearby hospital after the attack, but she was pronounced dead.
"It's hard for me not to cry," Detroit police Capt. Russell Solano said. "It's tough, real tough. We're talking about a 9-year-old girl who was just out there playing, and now she's not here."
The dogs are being held and quarantined at Detroit Animal Control, police said. The 33-year-old man who owns the dogs has been taken into police custody.
"Horrible," said Claudia Stapleton, Hernandez's aunt. "Very, very devastating for us and the family. She was a very happy child and she is going to be very, very missed. It's just something that shouldn't have happened. They should have been more careful with their dogs."
A makeshift memorial for Hernandez continues to grow Tuesday.
"This was her neighborhood," Stapleton said. "She should be able to play and do what every kid does -- walk around, ride their bikes. They shouldn't be afraid to be in their own neighborhood."
Police said the dogs slipped between two ramshackle fences to escape.
"We're having such a hard time," Stapleton said. "We're relying on prayer and family support to get us through right now."