Every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Buddy Owens, the jolly Vietnam veteran on Oklahoma Street in York, puts out lights and decorations to bring cheer to the Musical Heights neighborhood. To get to Oklahoma Street, you take South Pacific Street and pass Dolly Street. The neighborhood streets are all named for famous musicals. It was always considered a safe place to enjoy the lights.
Nobody loved it more than Owens.
“It’s always so beautiful over there. I have known Buddy for years and he always had such beautiful lights,” said Doris Mode at York’s senior center. Others at the center talked of driving their grandchildren past Owens’ house to see the lights.
But on Dec. 11, while Owens was fixing a palm tree light display in his front yard, he was attacked by two pit bull mix dogs and his arms injured so badly that he remains hospitalized after several surgeries.
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Police put it bluntly: Owens’ left arm was mangled.
One of the dogs had chased another woman in the neighborhood into her house, and a police officer who responded was threatened by one of the dogs before shooting it to protect himself and others.
York’s mayor Eddie Lee said the attack on Owens “could have been fatal,” and he will bring up a potential dangerous dog law to other city leaders in January.
“This was an attack,” Lee said. “Musical Heights, that’s a safe neighborhood. But what happened could have been deadly.”
Lee said he plans to bring up the potential for a law against dangerous dogs despite the council being told about a decade ago that the city could not enact “breed specific” laws after complaints about pit bulls.
“After what happened here in York, we need to take another look at it,” Lee said.
A rash of dog attacks a decade ago prompted Rock Hill officials to look at a dangerous dog law aimed at pit bulls and Rottweilers, but that law never was passed after outcries from owners of those breeds.
Robert Miles, the owner of one of the two dogs in the Dec. 11 attack, said the dogs are mixes of Boxer and American Pit Bull terrier, but had not previously shown aggressive behavior.
Although both dog owners have been cited for leash law violations, police have so far filed no criminal charges. Investigators are continuing to look at the circumstances around the attack, said detective Billy Mumaw of the York Police Department who is handling the investigation.
People in York were stunned by the attack and remain concerned.
“I am a Vietnam veteran just like Mr. Owens and what happened to him is just terrible,” said Steve Ramsey of York. “Here he survived Vietnam and at his age this happens to him. That’s not right.”
Owens, 71, who worked almost four decades for a textile company, is a Musical Heights neighborhood Christmas staple but his family said it remains unclear if Owens will be released from a Charlotte hospital in time for Christmas.
And even days after the attack this week, as Christmas approaches, many people drove down Oklahoma Street. Not just to see the lights as they have for so many years, but to see where a man was severely attacked in his own yard while trying to make Christmas bright for others.
Want to help?
Owens has gone through three surgeries so far and to help with the bills, a GoFund me account has been set up. To donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/buddy-owens-medical-fund.