“As soon as he came down the stairs, the bully called his name and lured him into the corner,” said Dominic’s sister, Kayla Deegan. WNBC in New York City, “And within seconds he was back around the corner screaming, ‘Mom, they set me on fire! Set me on fire!’
The attack caused Dominic to suffer second and third degree burns to his face and legs, and most of the boy’s body was swollen and bulging.
Authorities in Bridgeport, Connecticut, noted in a police report how initial findings showed that “up to four unattended children were seen playing with gasoline and setting things on fire.”
“The incident is still under investigation to ascertain the exact cause of the burn injuries by Bridgeport Police, the Bridgeport Fire Investigation Team and State Fire Investigation Teams,” the police wrote in the report.
No charges were brought until early Wednesday. Scott Appleby, Bridgeport’s director of emergency management, told the Washington Post that no other details were immediately available to be shared with the public. The identity of the 8-year-old or his family has not been released.
Dominic’s family wrote in an online fundraiser that the 8-year-old’s mother “believes he is innocent.” But Maria Roa, Dominic’s mother, told WTNH that her alleged bully son “intentionally threw a gasoline-saturated ball that they lit in my son’s face”.
“They threw it on Dominic and left him outside alone to die,” she said.
Roa told local media that the 6-year-old was being treated at Bridgeport Hospital and was expected to recover. John Capello, a spokesman for the hospital, told The Post that Dominic was doing well as of Wednesday morning.
“Fairness is better than critical and better than serious, so we try to do our best for it,” Capello said. “It’s a terrible thing.”
The 6-year-old’s family says Dominic was bullied by the 8-year-old over the past year. Deegan claimed to WNBC that the 8-year-old previously sent Dominic to the hospital for a concussion after her younger brother was pushed into a wall and fell to the ground about two months ago.
Dominic was playing at their Louisiana Street home in Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon when he was called up by the 8-year-old. Dominic’s family claimed to local media that the 8-year-old neighbor gained access to a shed on the property, and that way he was able to get gasoline and lighters.
Then, Deegan told WNBC, the 8-year-old lit a tennis ball soaked in gasoline and “threw it straight in my brother’s face – then ran off and watched him burn.”
Bridgeport authorities responded to a report of a child being burned shortly after 3:45 p.m., according to the police report. Police said Dominic was taken to the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital.
Burns and fires kill an estimated 3,500 children and adults annually, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The accident left Dominic’s family in a state of collapse and searching for answers. Deegan said her brother was barely eating, sleeping, or talking. Family members have shared photos of Dominic fully covered in bandages, surrounded by stuffed animals and Iron Man and Spider-Man dolls in his hospital bed.
Roa said his entire body was swollen with pimples and that “his face is nearly twice its normal size.”
“You can’t even see his pretty eyes anymore,” his mother told WTNH.
a GoFundMe That Deegan started to help pay Dominic’s hospital bills has raised more than $76,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. Dominic’s father is Aaron Krankall WTIC They were grateful for the community’s support in the days following Dominic’s burning.
“I say to Dominic, all these people love you and care about you,” the father said, adding that people offered to move the family out of the house and stay away from the alleged bully. “Everyone just really helps. The whole community comes together.”
But the boy’s family was left wondering when Dominic, who they described in an online fundraiser as a lucky boy and befriended everyone else, will be able to ride his bike, play basketball or go fishing again.
“It’s a tough little cookie,” Deegan wrote at GoFundMe. “The bravest 6 years I’ve ever known.”