Man dies after being critically injured in Grover Beach dog attack

David Fear and Terry, his partner of 25 years
David Fear and Terry, his partner of 25 years

A 64-year-old man critically injured in a Grover Beach dog attack died late Friday night, leaving friends and family saddened and in disbelief.

At 10:57 p.m., David Fear succumbed to injuries suffered during the Tuesday attack, said Ron Yukelson, a Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center spokesman.

The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office is investigating the death, Sgt. Jeff Nichols of the county Sheriff’s Office said.

Fear and his neighbor, Betty Long, 85, were attacked about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday on the 1100 block of Nacimiento Avenue, said Eric Anderson, San Luis Obispo County Animal Services manager.

Police and fire officials arrived on the scene to find Fear and Long suffering from serious injuries and two dogs — a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois and a German shepherd — running in the area.

The Belgian Malinois was found to be the primary aggressor and was euthanized with the owner’s permission. The German shepherd did not appear to be aggressive and is being held by its owner.

Fear’s family and neighbors said Thursday that Long was attacked first while standing outside her home with a small dog. Fear was trying to help her when the dogs attacking Long turned on him, causing severe injuries and blood loss.

Yukelson said Long is expected to be discharged from the hospital later Saturday.

The dogs were owned by a Grover Beach police officer and were not city-owned animals, Anderson said. Grover Beach does not have a police canine program.

The city of Grover Beach released a statement Saturday afternoon about the incident.

“The city of Grover Beach would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. David Fear,” the statement read. “Today’s news of Mr. Fear’s passing from injuries sustained earlier this week during a tragic and unfortunate dog attack has brought sadness to our hearts. Our prayers are with the Fear family during this difficult time and with Ms. Betty Long and her family during her recovery.”

Remembering an ‘All-American good person’

Diana Smaw and Rene Davino, sisters of Terry Lopez, Fear’s partner of 25 years, said complications ensued after he received blood transfusions to replace what he lost during the attack. He had bite wounds on his legs and torso, although those on his arms were the worst, Smaw said.

Fear’s family and friends remembered him as a kind man who was always willing to help those in need.

Bill Hortillosa, a childhood friend, called Fear a hero when he stopped by the family’s home to pay his respects.

“He put his life on the line for the old lady,” he said.

Fear lived in San Luis Obispo County most of his life, served in the Army and made his living installing carpeting and flooring, Davino said.

Fear had three children, including a daughter who was preparing to get married, she said.

“He was just an All-American good person,” Davino said.

Investigating the attack

Animal Services will continue its investigation into the attack, which should wrap up toward the middle of the week, Anderson said Saturday. No conclusive assessments have been made at this time, he said.

Deaths caused by dog bites are very rare. There were only 40 dog bite-related fatalities in 2014, according to the National Canine Research Council. The organization defines such a fatality as “a death resulting from the mechanical trauma of a dog bite.”

Rabies testing is the first step in any dog bite investigation, Anderson said.

Anderson said tests conducted on the Belgian Malinois came back negative. The German shepherd is being quarantined — kept inside or directly monitored in a fenced-in area — for rabies observation through next week, he said.

The next steps will involve assessing the circumstances leading up to the attack and determining whether the German shepherd poses a continued threat to public safety, he said.

Animal Services will pass the information gathered to the county District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to press criminal charges, Anderson said. He declined to release the name of the dogs’ owner because charges have not been filed.

“It’s very tragic and unfortunate,” Anderson said.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27