October 12, 2012

W. Gardiner drug theft suspect stabs police dog

Police say 20-year-old Dustin Smith stabbed the dog when they found the suspect hiding behind some stairs.

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

RANDOLPH — A former Pittston man who was on probation after beating a man two years ago is back behind bars after reportedly stabbing a police dog in the neck and threatening sheriff’s deputies with a knife.

Dracco

Photo courtesy of Kennebec County Sheriff's Office

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Waterville Police Officer Lincoln Ryder, far right, and Kennebec County Sheriff's Cpl. G.J. Neagle III, second from right, with Dracco, his police dog, lead a leg of the Special Olympics Torch Run through Winslow into Waterville on June 7, 2012.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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Dustin Phillip Smith, 20, was arrested late Wednesday night after an hours-long standoff at the Windsor Heights apartment complex on Windsor Street. Police had been chasing him because of a report that he had stolen prescription drugs from a home.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said the German shepherd, Draco, was treated at a Lewiston animal clinic, where he got stitches and staples for a deep stab wound just behind his ear. Draco has been cleared to return to work and is expected to make a full recovery, Liberty said.

“He’s doing great,” Liberty said Thursday. “We’re going to give him a little time off to recover.”

Meanwhile, Smith’s mother, Pam Preble, thanked police for the way they treated her son and she expressed concern for Draco.

“It was wrong what my son did,” she said Thursday. “I am an animal lover. I never raised my son to do this stuff.”

Draco started as a police dog in June after he and his handler, Cpl. G.J. Neagle, completed 12 weeks of training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Neagle’s previous dog, Gib, retired after six years of service. He and Draco live with Neagle and his family.

Maine State Police Sgt. Blaine Bronson, principal dog trainer at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro, said officers form a strong bond with their dogs as they spend time together both in the home and at work.

“I tell people all the time that we spend more time with our canine partners than with our kids,” Bronson said. “They get very attached and depend on them a lot.”

Neagle got Draco when the dog was 5 months old and began a training program before ever entering the academy. Bronson said the dog, who is in a class for drug dogs, has a very high drive but is also very social. 

“The dog is absolutely fantastic,” Bronson said. “He’s awesome.”

Bronson cannot remember a dog being as severely wounded in an assault as Draco was. Dogs suffer job-inflicted injuries, such as leg injuries or broken teeth, though Bronson said it’s not uncommon for a dog to be punched or suffer some other form of assault. Rarely do those instances result in injuries, he said.

“They take a lot more of a beating than we do,” Bronson said. “In this case it was more severe. We’re very fortunate it didn’t hit anything vital. I’m glad we still have him.”

The chase

The events began to unfold around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when Neagle received a report that prescription medication was stolen from a home in West Gardiner. Smith, the suspected thief, was believed to be at the Windsor Heights apartments, Liberty said.

Smith is on probation stemming from an aggravated assault conviction two years ago and was wanted on a warrant charging him with a probation violation.

Kennebec County sheriff’s deputies, including Neagle, Aaron Moody and Toby Pond, found Smith in the apartment complex parking lot. Smith ran off with Neagle in pursuit, and Draco eventually found Smith crouched behind steps.

“Smith pulled out a 5-inch hunting knife and threatened to stab the deputies,” Liberty said.

Smith threatened the deputies as they held him at gunpoint, Liberty said. He said the deputies would have been justified in shooting Smith, but they held their fire because it is a residential area.

“I was proud of their restraint,” Liberty said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Dustin Smith

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