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Man Hailed As 'Guardian Angel' in Attack by Dogs

(KFYI News) – The family of a woman who was viciously attacked by a pack of dogs in a south Phoenix park last week finally got to meet the man who saved the victim's life.

Juan Figueroa met with the family at Maricopa Medical Center, where the 72-year-old victim was treated.  She got out of intensive care on Saturday, and was able to meet Figueroa for the first time on Sunday.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Antoine Chagnon, the victim's grandson, said "Thanks to this man for saving my grandmother.  Without him, my grandmother may not be with us today."

According to Chagnon, his grandmother went to the park, as she often does, looking for aluminum cans.  She saw the dogs in a nearby yard, and had seen them before, although they had never bothered her.  This time, however, the dogs ran across the street and came right at her, biting her and repeatedly knocking her down.  When she was on the ground, Chagnon said, the dogs tore at her arms and essentially ripped off her scalp, which had to be reconstructed in the hospital.

"The third time they knocked her down, she figured that was it, that she was gonna die there, because there was no one around," Chagnon said.

Then, along came Juan Figueroa.

Figueroa said he was driving to work about 5:30 last Wednesday morning and was supposed to meet a friend at a restaurant at 16th St. and Buckeye Rd.  When he didn't see his friend, Figueroa drove south on 16th St.  As he passed the park, he saw a person on the ground surrounded by several dogs.  When he saw the person on the ground weakly trying to swat the dogs away, he decided to help.

Figueroa parked his truck and grabbed a length of hard plastic pipe, about an inch in diameter.  "I thought that just by swinging it and shooing away the dogs, they would leave.  But after I did that, the dogs proceeded to attack me," he said.

At that point, he said, he started hitting the dogs.  "I took the dogs on and swatted them and barked at them," he said, "because I know that if you don't show you're gonna stand your ground, if you show fear, they're just gonna attack you."

Eventually, he hit the leader of the pack in the mouth, at which point all of the dogs walked away.  Figueroa said he assumed they had left, but he soon saw them huddling next to a nearby tree.  He figured that if he left, they would return to continue attacking the woman.

So Figueroa stood by the woman and called 911.  "I didn't have a choice, in my book.  It's not like I was just gonna leave someone there."

At the same time, he saw a police car driving past and waved down the officer, who came to help. 

"I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason," said Chagnon, the grandson.  "It just happened to be that the right people were there at the right time."

He said his grandmother lost four pints of blood in the attack, and likely would have died without Figueroa's intervention.  When victim and savior met at the hospital on Sunday, Figueroa said, "She just said that I'm her angel, her guardian angel.  She said she prayed, and I got there right in time to help."

Figueroa adds that he has a new family member.  "I'm very glad that Antoine's grandmother, who is now my new nana, since I lost my grandmother not too long ago, is doing good," Figueroa said, fighting back tears.

PHOTO: Juan Figueroa talks to reporters while the victim's grandson, Antoine Chagnon, looks on.

 

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