Feb. 13--The 32-year-old San Jose man held back tears Sunday, devastated after his beloved 7-pound Yorkshire Terrier named Shadow was killed while trying to protect him from a beating by three street thugs.
"All I saw was a big puddle of blood," said the man named "Miguel," who didn't want his last name used for fear of further retaliation. "I can't believe this is happening."
The shocking incident, investigated by police and witnessed in parts by several people, happened quickly early Saturday afternoon.
As Miguel recounts it, he was walking his Yorkie to the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Colonial Way beside the Salvation Army store when the three young men approached. They had been helping with a carwash across the street, raising money for the funeral of a friend who had been killed earlier this month.
"Are you a gangbanger?" they asked.
Miguel was wearing a red sweater and a Boston Red Sox ball cap, but denied any gang ties. He is a flooring installer.
"All I wanted was to get my dog out of there," he said. "I didn't care about them hurting me."
Not only was Shadow his constant companion for six years, but he credits the dog with helping him overcome drug addiction. "Just being able to come home to him filled that void, whatever was missing. The dog gave me that love."
Some of his friends joked that such a big guy had such a little dog, but Miguel didn't care. They went everywhere together. If a store didn't allow Shadow inside, "I wouldn't go to that store," Miguel said. He called the dog "Shadow Wado" and wore a T-shirt with the dog's picture on it. Another picture of the tiny brown-haired Yorkie serves as Miguel's phone screensaver.
During Saturday's attack, Miguel remembers tripping on the sidewalk and falling face-first as he tried to run away. When he fell, he said, the men who appeared to be in their 20s began punching and kicking him.
"I didn't want to let the leash go," he said, but it fell from his hands when he hit the pavement. At some point, Shadow's furious barking stopped. Out of the corner of his eye, Miguel saw Shadow lying limp on the sidewalk.
"I think he got trampled or stomped on purposefully," said Miguel, who didn't witness the attack on his dog.
After Miguel managed to push off his attackers, they fled, and Miguel rushed to his dog's side. Miguel's forehead was scraped, but blood poured from his dog's mouth and ears.
The man picked up his dog, cradled him in his arms and cried.
On Sunday, several witnesses who had been selling Valentine's Day flowers across Winchester Boulevard the day before, said they saw the commotion from a distance.
One witness said he watched four men, not three, returning to the carwash, laughing, shaking hands, and holding the Red Sox ball cap like a trophy.
"The boys at the carwash ran through the street. They got the guy and started beating him," said the flower vender, who didn't want to give his name for fear of reprisals. "They took his red hat and they brought the hat back. The guy stayed there. He had a puppy in his hands."
Within minutes, the 30 or so volunteers helping with the makeshift carwash in a restaurant parking lot on Winchester and Impala Way disbanded. Earlier, witnesses say, they had been waving signs with a photograph of Ramon Ruano, 20, who was shot and killed Feb. 5 in San Jose. They were asking for donations to pay for the funeral.
"I didn't see the fight, but I just saw them running in all sorts of directions," said another flower seller, who also declined to be identified. "Then they were all gone and never came back."
Police arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, she said, and interviewed her and several others. Animal control officers, who could not be reached Sunday, also interviewed Miguel.
San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said Sunday the department is "willing to help animal control services in any way we can to catch the people responsible for this. Animal cruelty is a serious crime. If someone were to do that to my dog, I'd feel in a similar manner."
Miguel's mother and brother gathered at his apartment Sunday to try to comfort him. Miguel was in such shock over the death of his dog, he brought Shadow's body home from the vet Saturday and kept it next to him on the couch overnight. Miguel planned to have the dog cremated later Sunday.
"I've never seen someone love a pet so much," said Miguel's mother, Laura Rojas. And Shadow, she said, "was so protective. He had the heart of a lion."
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.