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He was mauled by pit bulls. Then people called the cops on him

A bearded man with long hair and a white sleeveless shirt has several bandages on his arm. He stands indoors, next to a window with grey curtains.
Pablo Rocha says a detective told him multiple people called police to report him as a burglar after he was attacked by two pit bulls while walking home from FitnessSF in SoMa. | Source: Colin Peck for The Standard

Pablo Rocha felt a tug on his shorts as he walked home from SoMa’s FitnessSF gym with a friend.

“When I looked back, it was two gray pit bulls,” Rocha said of the May 25 incident. 

At first, he thought they were playing. But then one bit him before they both began a frenzied attack, biting his arms, legs and buttocks. 

The smaller dog tried to knock him down, Rocha said, while the larger one “was trying to kill me.” Footage from a nearby security camera shows the dogs knocked Rocha to the ground at least three times. He stands at 6’6”, weighing 210lbs.

Surveillance footage shows Rocha getting mauled by the pit bulls before he jumps into the parking lot of Aga John Rugs. | Source: Courtesy Aga John Rugs

Rocha’s friend, Eduardo Pajeú, failed to pull the dogs away from him. After around two minutes, Rocha escaped the attack by hopping the almost 8-foot-high fence of a rug store on the corner of Vermont and Alameda streets.

Pajeú said he then saw the dogs’ owner, a nearby RV dweller, call the pit bulls away. But she did not leave the vehicle to help Rocha, he said.

A bearded man with tattoos on both arms is sitting on an orange couch, dressed in a black shirt. He appears to be in a casual setting with a chair and curtains in the background.
Rocha's friend Eduardo Pajeú says he saw the dogs' owner call the pit bulls, but she did not come out of her RV to help Rocha. | Source: Colin Peck for The Standard

Store surveillance footage shows a bloodied Rocha stumbling behind the fence, removing his shirt to stem the wounds on his right arm. 

The footage shows him in obvious physical distress as he sat down, reeling from what he later discovered were 11 bites that left him with 30 stitches.

Pajeú, at Rocha’s request, ran back to the gym to get help. But no passersby would stop to aid Rocha—even as he cried for help and made eye contact with them through the fence.

He said a detective later told him that multiple people dialed 911 to report him as a burglar. 

Passersby ignored Rocha as he called for help. | Source: Courtesy Aga John Rugs

“They associate a Black guy, bleeding with ‘criminal,’” Rocha said, adding that he believes people would not have reacted the same way if he were white.

Footage further shows police officers entering the fenced-off parking lot at 6:20 p.m. to recover Rocha. 

“The cops were like, ‘How did you get there?’ but very aggressively,” Rocha said. “And I was like, ‘Hey, I was attacked by two fucking pit bulls; what are you asking for?’”

Rocha said that once Pajeú explained the incident, the officers were sympathetic. He said he believes the police would’ve put him in cuffs if Pajeú hadn’t been there to vouch for him.

A person's arm with multiple small bandages in varying orientations covers the upper arm, which is clad in a sleeveless white shirt.
Rocha is still healing wounds from 11 dog bites he sustained in the May 25 attack. | Source: Colin Peck for The Standard

A San Francisco Police Department spokesperson disputed Rocha’s characterization after reviewing body camera footage.

“At no point did officers treat the victim as a suspect,” the spokesperson said. “The victim was immediately treated by paramedics as officers gathered information about the attack, which they used to quickly track down the dogs. Police and paramedics acted professionally.”

The spokesperson did not respond to questions about the 911 calls but said that officers arrested 39-year-old Hilary Flynn and 31-year-old Jesse Ali of San Francisco. 

Flynn was booked in county jail on suspicion of failure to control a dangerous dog, false impersonation and resisting arrest. The spokesperson said Flynn has outstanding warrants outside San Francisco.

Ali is accused of resisting arrest and aiding a person he knew committed a felony. KTVU reports that Ali was released with electronic monitoring. Records show Ali is not currently in jail but was booked on May 27. 

A spokesperson for San Francisco Animal Care and Control said the two pit bulls have since been euthanized.

Two men standing together; the left man has long hair and a beard, with medical tape on his arm, wearing a white sleeveless shirt. The right man wears a cap and a black hoodie.
Rocha and his husband, Robert Fountain, live in SoMa where Rocha was attacked by the dogs. Fountain, a longtime San Francisco resident, says he's now too scared to walk to the gym. | Source: Colin Peck for The Standard

“It’s amazing he’s alive,” said Robert Fountain, Rocha’s husband. “Seriously. If he wasn’t as healthy and tall as he is, he’d be dead.”

Fountain, a longtime San Francisco resident, said he no longer feels safe in his SoMa apartment, pointing to a perceived rise in crime, drug use and homelessness. Rocha said he’s now too scared to walk the few blocks from his home to the gym.

Reports of violent crime in SoMa were down 10% in the 12 months before June 6, and drug crimes were down 11%. Citywide, violent crimes dropped 5% and drug offense crimes dropped 9% in the same time period.

Fountain—who said he’s become desensitized to crime in the city—said a phone call with his mother after the attack led him to reconsider how he saw the incident.

“She said, ‘You might have done the same thing if you didn’t know who Pablo (Rocha) was,’” Fountain said. “And that kicked me in the stomach—that I have become the person that did this to him and assumed that he was something he was not.”

SFPD’s dangerous dog unit investigates an estimated 600 to 800 dog bite incidents per year, the department said in a release. On June 4, a white husky left a 4-year-old boy severely injured after an attack in the Marina.

A bearded man with shoulder-length hair sits in a yellow chair, wearing a sleeveless white shirt with medical tape on his arm, in a room with framed art and cozy furnishings.
Rocha says police acted aggressively with him when they arrived at the scene. He believes the police would’ve put him in cuffs if his friend hadn’t been there to vouch for him. Police have disputed his account. | Source: Colin Peck for The Standard

“The problem is not the pit bull,” Rocha said. “The problem is the city does not take care of our safety.” 

For now, Rocha said he’s recovering well and plans to find a physical therapist. 

Pajeú, who is visiting San Francisco from Ireland, said he has extended his stay to help care for Rocha. 

Farid Yadegar, the manager of the rug store that Rocha sheltered in, said Rocha later brought him cookies to thank him for the fence that “saved my life.” He said they were delicious.

Tomoki Chien can be reached at