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Ruff night for Island criminals

Nov 06 2012
Saanich Police Const. Justin Whittaker puts his arm around canine partner Taz, one day after the pair were able to apprehend a suspicious cyclist who now faces a number of charges. 

Saanich Police Const. Justin Whittaker puts his arm around canine partner Taz, one day after the pair were able to apprehend a suspicious cyclist who now faces a number of charges.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

It was a three-dog night for police on Vancouver Island.

Officers Conan, Boomer and Taz all hauled down suspects in Victoria, Nanaimo and Saanich in separate incidents over three hours late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Conan, who toils for the Victoria police department, kicked off the evening by pulling a man from the Gorge Waterway about 10 p.m.

The case started with a traffic stop in the 300 block of Gorge Road East. The canine unit was called after an officer recognized the driver, a 19-year-old Victoria man in breach of his court-ordered curfew, police said.

The man bolted from the car, ran down an embankment onto the Galloping Goose Trail and into the woods. Conan took off after him but was unable to find the man, who had waded into the waterway.

Sent in a second time, Conan spotted the suspect in the water. The police dog bit into the man's arm and held on as the current was pulling the two of them away, police said.

Officers waded into the waist-deep water and finally took the man into custody. He was treated for the dog bite and is now facing four new charges.

A short time later in Nanaimo, masked thieves drove a stolen truck into a liquor store and took off on foot with an undisclosed quantity of beer.

RCMP Const. Clay Wurzinger and his dog, Boomer, arrived on the scene just before midnight and tracked the thieves through heavy bush and mud, eventually nabbing two "very wet, exhausted and cold suspects," RCMP said in a statement.

Two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested and charged.

Boomer no sooner got his men than Saanich police dog Taz swung into action

Taz and partner Const. Justin Whittaker were on patrol on Whittier Avenue about 1 a.m. when they spotted a man on a bike with no lights.

"I thought initially he was actually doubling somebody, because I could see some sort of object across his lap," Whittaker said in an interview. "As I got closer, I noticed really quickly that it was another bike that he was carrying. Certainly, we're going to stop and have a conversation about that."

The suspect turned onto Dup-plin Road and Whittaker pulled alongside, rolled down his window and asked where the man got the bike.

"He said, 'Oh, I just found it around the corner.' " Then he took off, pedalling down the street. Whittaker sped up and cut him off, so the man dismounted the bike he was riding, threw the bike he was carrying at the side of Whittaker's police truck, and took off running.

That's when Whittaker got Taz involved. "Taz had the target locked on him pretty quick ... and, about 100 feet down Tolmie Lane, I saw the dog launch and grab him in the right shoulder and just take him right down to the ground," Whittaker said.

The suspect continued to resist arrest, but was soon handcuffed.

A search of the man's back-pack turned up bear spray, handgun and rifle ammunition, jew-elry, electronic devices and a "sizable amount" of crystal meth, Whittaker said.

A 27-year-old man was held in custody and faces six charges including mischief, possession of break-in tools, obstructing a peace officer, possession of drugs and breaching outstanding court orders.

"Taz just performed flawlessly," Whittaker said. "He was just great. We're going to see where this investigation takes us now."

No firearms have been recovered, but Whittaker said police are continuing their search. lkines@timescolonist.com


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