HILLSIDE, NJ — One of Hillside’s finest is being lauded as a hero.
Hillside Police Lt. Matt Cove was recognized at the July 20 Hillside Board of Education meeting by Superintendent of Schools Antoine Gayles and BOE members for coming to the rescue of several middle school students during a pit bull attack that occurred May 15 on the 1500 block of Center Street in Hillside at around 3:45 p.m. as students were walking home from school.
Two students at Walter O. Krumbiegel Middle School were bitten by one of the two dogs involved in the attack, while another student’s shirt was ripped and a third was cornered by the dogs. During the police rescue, both dogs were shot and later taken for medical treatment.
Cove spoke with LocalSource about the incident.
“Kids were walking home from school when we got a call that they were getting attacked by a pit bull and that one of the kids was bitten by a pit bull,” Cove said in a recent phone interview.
According to Cove, a resident on the block took several of the kids into her home, while the dog’s owner tried to lure the dog out of her yard.
“She seemed to have control of the dog and the woman let the kids out of her house,” Cove said. “It seemed safe.”
But then, said Cove, the situation became out of control.
“I heard a bunch of people screaming,” Cove said. “Now it was two dogs running down the street. At the time I was talking to two kids who were bitten by the first dog.”
Cove said that the frightened children fled, jumping on the hoods of cars to try and get away from the dogs.
“One girl tried to run into a house but it was locked,” Cove said. “She was trapped on the stoop.”
When the dogs tried to attack the girl, Cove said, he had no choice but to shoot the dogs in order to stop them.
“It stopped the attack,” Cove said. “It’s a shame they had to see that,” he said of the students.
The dogs were still alive after the attack, said Cove, and the Humane Society came soon afterward to bring the dogs for treatment.
Hillside Police Captain Lashonda Burgess released a statement to LocalSource about the incident.
“If not for the swift actions of Lt. Cove in this unfortunate situation, the consequences could have been devastating for multiple victims,” Burgess said in a July 21 email. “On behalf of myself and the entire Hillside Police Department, we are proud of Lt. Cove for his actions on this date. I’d also like to commend Lt. Cove for maintaining his professionalism at all times, while commanding a very chaotic scene. He is a well-respected leader within the Department and it is an honor and privilege to work alongside him.”
Joyce Caine, Principal of WOK Middle School, released a statement not long after the incident, praising the actions of the HPD.
“I am very pleased with Hillside Police — their responsiveness and helpfulness,” Caine said.
Acting Police Chief Louis Panarese also praised the officers who responded to the incident.
“Just another day at the office,” Panarese told LocalSource in a July 20 email. “I’m told the dogs were very aggressive, but quick thinking and training kept the injuries to a minimum. Protect and serve, that’s why we do what we do.”