© Ted Phillips
The scene of an apparent dog attack in Elmont. Photo
A 9-year-old girl died Sunday, hours after she was mauled by a pit bull while playing with friends in the backyard of an Elmont house, Nassau police said.

It could be the first known fatal attack by a pit bull on Long Island. A search of Newsday archives dating to the 1940s found no records of a similar death.

Nassau police and neighbors described a harrowing scene as attempts to free the girl from the dog's clenched jaws failed and her two friends ran into the front of the house on Holland Avenue screaming for help.

Det. Michael Bitsko said the mother of one of the girl's friends tried unsuccessfully to get the dog to let go of the child.

Bitsko said officers had surrounded the house and one went inside. When one officer came out in the backyard, she drew the dog's attention, and when the animal charged, the officer fired several shots. It was not known why the dog attacked, he said.

He declined to describe the girl's wounds. "I'm not going to get into the details of what took place, but it was a violent attack," Bitsko said.

A neighbor who lives next door and declined to give her name said two girls ran into the street screaming for help as the attack continued.

"I just saw them run on the sidewalk. . . . Everybody on the block tried to help, it was really horrible," the woman told reporters. "When the ambulance came, they put her on the stretcher and put a mask over her face. . . . It's a horrible tragedy."

Roshni Subkaran, 19, a college student who lives with her family on the other side of the street, said she heard a dog barking and loud voices outside sometime after 10 a.m.

"There was a lot of commotion," she said. "Then, three shots went off and the barking stopped."

Minutes after the gunshots she saw a child being taken out on a stretcher into an ambulance.

"We didn't know how serious it was," Subkaran said. "It shocked me. I had no idea she was going to die."

She said the dog was taken away around 2 p.m. by animal control.

Bitsko said the pit bull belonged to Carlyle Arnold Jr., 29, who lives in an upstairs apartment at the house.

Arnold was arrested at the scene on an unrelated charge of violation of an order of protection, police said. No charges were filed in connection with the dog attack.

"I'm sorry for what happened to the little girl," said Carlyle Arnold Sr., father of the dog's owner. "This is crazy, I'm getting off of work and now I'm like in a horror scene."

The girl's death at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream at 1:42 p.m. came less than four hours after the pit bull attacked her.

Anthony Tyron Jett, 53, said he lives at the house and described the dog, named Kane, as "gentle" and said it would let you put a hand in its mouth.

Upon learning of the girl's death, Jett said, "Oh my God, oh my God" and held his head in his hands.

"He was a good dog, that's what I don't understand."