CAMBRIA, IL (KFVS) - A Williamson County man says he's lucky to be alive after allegedly being attacked by a police dog on the loose.
The man, 80-year-old J.C. Leeper and his son-in-law Art Murray say the off-duty K-9 somehow got out of his pen and bit them.
The dog is in quarantine and Illinois State Police are investigating the incident.
Leeper says his run-in with the K-9 was the fight of his life.
"I fought like hell to get him off and save my life," Leeper said.
Leeper was just about to get back on his lawn mower late Friday morning when he says the dog attacked.
"It grabbed me by the arm and I fought, I fought hard to get away," said Leeper. "If I'd have fell, he'd have killed me. I know he would have, and that's not a good feeling."
Leeper broke free and went for help. Then he says the dog bit his son-in-law in the shoulder as he tried to coax the dog back into its pen.
"The report we got was that it was a pit bull, and on the way over there, we found out it was one of our canines that had gotten out of his pen and bitten two people," said Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick.
Sheriff Vick says before this incident, the K-9 officer had a stellar record. According to the sheriff, for eight years the dog has gotten drugs off the streets, found lost people, caught criminals and never caused problems. Vick says he doesn't know what went wrong, or how the dog got out when his handler wasn't even home.
"We think someone let him out," said Vick. "The pen was secure, and the dog couldn't undo the latch himself. Even if he jumped up."
The sheriff says from now on K-9 officer kennels will be padlocked so nothing like this ever happens again.
"I mean it hurt like the very devil until I got to the emergency room," said Leeper.
Six days, a three hour surgery and countless stitches later, Leeper's arms still hurt, but he's on the mend. He says he harbors no hard feelings against his neighbor, the deputy whose name is not being released.
"I'm not mad, I've known them people for years, it's just something that happened," said Leeper. "But I thank the good Lord it happened to me and not my great grand children or he's got children too. I don't know if the dog would have attacked them, but if he did, he'd have killed them."
Like any dog bite case, the k-9 is being quarantined for 10 days to make sure he does not have rabies. After that, if a veterinarian gives the dog a clear bill of health, he'll be put back to work. But at home, Sheriff Vick says the dog will have much tighter security.