By Craig Crosby
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.
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 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.
Smith again fled on foot, this time with Draco in pursuit.
That’s when Smith stabbed Draco, Liberty said. The knife narrowly missed Draco’s windpipe and caused a 7-inch wound, LIberty said.
Deputies again held Smith at gunpoint and he again fled, this time into one of the apartment buildings.
Deputies surrounded the building as Neagle rushed Draco to the Emergency Animal Clinic in Lewiston.
The Maine State Police tactical team was called to negotiate with Smith, who took refuge inside his girlfriend’s apartment, Liberty said. He said state police allowed neighbors to remain in their homes.
Smith wouldn’t leave the apartment, saying he wouldn’t go back to jail, Liberty said.
A state police negotiator asked Smith to let the woman and the young child with her to leave, which he did, around 9 p.m. Smith was not holding the woman and child hostage, Liberty said.
Smith surrendered shortly before 11 p.m. after Kennebec County Sheriff Deputy Gregory Lumbert, who knows Smith, convinced him to come out.
Smith is facing a litany of charges, including unlawful interference with law enforcement dogs with a dangerous weapon, aggravated cruelty to animals, three counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, terrorizing; creating a police standoff, refusing to submit to arrest or detention and assault. Smith also was charged with a probation violation for allegedly operating after suspension on Sept. 1 in Augusta.
Smith was being held without bail Thursday at the Kennebec County jail. He is expected to make an initial court appearance on the new charges today.
Smith was sentenced in October 2010 in Kennebec County Superior Court to eight years in prison, with all but two years suspended and three years probation, after he was convicted of aggravated assault for beating a friend with a bedpost. Department of Corrections officials said Smith was released on March 23.
Smith pleaded guilty to the June 7, 2010, Pittston attack. The victim, a 23-year-old man from the Gardiner area, had injuries to his face, head, chest and stomach, police said at the time. Smith reportedly hit the victim in the head and then dragged him outside, where he punched and kicked him.
Police said Smith dragged the victim back inside the home and put him in a shower in an attempt to clean him up. He then wrapped the man in a shower curtain, took a picture, and called an acquaintance to take the victim away, police said.
A Kennebec County grand jury in September 2010 indicted Smith on charges of elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault.
Smith was ordered to pay restitution of $50 per month for the victim’s $22,000 hospital bills in addition to the prison and probation sentences.
Preble said her son suffers from a combination of mental illness and drug addiction. Preble said she has tried to help Smith, but he eventually returns to his friends and the drug culture that foster the criminal activity. Preble said she is desperate for someone to help her son.
“As he was growing up, I asked and asked for help and told them he was a time bomb waiting to explode,” Preble said. “He’s my son. No matter what, I still love him. I want him to get the help he needs.”Tweet
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.