When an 11-year-old girl was attacked and mauled by a dog Sept. 4 in Russell, police Officer Scott Lillash came to her aid after being called to the home by her sister. The dog at the home of her aunt was biting her thigh and arm.
Officer Lillash arrived on the scene and was able to use a Taser device to stop the dog from causing further injury. Emma May was transported by the Russell Township rescue squad for treatment. She is a sixth-grader at West Geauga Middle School. The dog later died.
Russell Township Trustees took time last week at their regular meeting to recognize Officer Lillash’s life-saving efforts. Emma and her sister Hailey and family members were on hand as well.
Russell Police Chief Tim Carroll, in recalling the incident, said at about 4 p.m., Officer Lillash responded to the home on Chillicothe Road (Route 306) where the caller said a pit bull was attacking her sister.
“Scott responded immediately to the scene and successfully tasered the dog while it was actively and viciously attacking Emma,” Chief Carroll said.
Josh Sirk, a paramedic with the Russell Fire Department, who also responded to the call said Emma had injuries to her thigh, torso and forearm. “It was a lot of soft tissue trauma and there was a lot of damage,” he said. “This is the most severe (dog bite) incident I’ve ever responded to.”
During the trustee meeting, Chief Carroll said to Officer Lillash, “You immediately put yourself in harm’s way and were successful in getting the young girl freed from the dog’s grip and vicious attack, preventing any further injury to Emma. I truly believe that did save Emma’s life.
“While Emma suffered from many injuries that may require further medical treatment, your actions prevented it from being much worse. Russell Township, the Russell Police Department and I commend your actions and sincerely thank you for a heroic job well done,” Chief Carroll said.
Officer Lillash was accompanied by members of his family at the commendation Oct. 16, including his wife, April, children and parents, Tom and Carol Lillash, and even Bainbridge Police Officer Ryan Patete, a family member. He thanked everyone for coming and his father, a retired police officer, called out from the audience, “We’re proud of you, son.”
Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder, who is a township resident, had a proclamation for Officer Lillash, and he noted, “Everyone wanted to do something. You truly are a hero.” He presented Emma with a card as well.
The township trustees also had a proclamation for Officer Lillash. Trustee Justin Madden said they were proud to know Emma and said they hope she always feels welcome there.
Emma said the dog, an American bull dog and pit bull mix was her aunt’s dog. She and her sister were at her aunt’s house when the incident happened. He went after her for unknown reasons. Her sister Hailey Burwell, 17, was with her and Hailey called 911. Officer Lillash arrived and took over.
At last week’s commendation, Emma thanked him for his service. “I would be much worse if you hadn’t come,” she said. Her family also said he is their hero.
Officer Lillash said when the call came in, it was a report of a dog actively attacking her sister. The dog had her by the hip, thigh and arm.
Emma’s sister was outside to wave him down and she directed him to Emma. From what he has learned, they were eating and the dog wanted something and was pushed away and that is when he attacked her.
After using the Taser device to shock the dog, the animal was chained, he said.
Emma was transported to Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights and then to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. She had more than 100 stitches along with the chipped bone, he said.
Officer Lillash said he has dealt with dog bites in the past, but none like this.
Police Chief Carroll said, “He’s a really good police officer. He is good with investigations and with the public. He is a well-rounded officer.” Officer Lillash’s own son Tyler is a police officer in Waite Hill.
Trustee Madden said, “We are extremely proud of our police department and the courageous, life-saving action of Officer Scott Lillash.
“And the chief deserves credit for developing a very fine and professional police department,” he said. “You have to marvel at the courage of Emma for coming to the commendation and revisiting the incident.
“I want to acknowledge her courage and maturity and being at the meeting and being a part of the commendation for Officer Lillash,” Mr. Madden said.