A Union Township police dog has recovered after it accidentally ingested heroin following a Saturday night police chase in Mahoning Township.
Union canine officer Draco was rushed to an animal hospital in Girard, Ohio, where he was administered Narcan, according to Union police chief Mark Julian. The dog, which was assisting Mahoning police on the call, reportedly had found and inhaled suspected powdered heroin that had spilled from a split-open plastic bag in some bushes off Skyhill Road.
The heroin allegedly was thrown there by 25-year-old Walter Alcurits Williams Jr. after a Mahoning officer had lost sight of him during a vehicle chase.
The police, following a three-hour manhunt, arrested Williams.
The 4-year-old German shepherd while sniffing the drug ingested some of it and started exhibiting strange behavior, Julian said. “He was swaying and dragging his legs and foaming at the mouth.”
Draco, whose handler is Union officer Brenton Linton, was treated at the animal hospital and released to his handler.
“He has made a full recovery, thank God,” Julian said yesterday. “He hit on a bush where the dope was. It’s a good thing we found that or we wouldn’t have known what happened. We were lucky.”
When Draco showed signs of finding the drugs, the police had to spread the bushes apart to find what Draco had detected, Julian said.
Julian said Draco was back on patrol duty Sunday night.
According to a criminal complaint that Mahoning Township police filed against Williams, a Mahoning officer patrolling Route 422 around 5:45 p.m. saw a white Chrysler 500 with tinted windows turn at high speed onto Baird Road without signaling.
The officer caught up to the car until it reached Hillsville Road. Then it sped onto Timber Lane and when the officer turned on his lights to pull it over, it sped up to about 60 mph on a lane posted with a speed limit of 10 mph, the report said.
The car spun into a ditch, and the officer pulled out his gun and screamed multiple times at the driver, ordering him to put his car in park. However, the driver shifted into reverse and backed up at high speed toward the officer and his cruiser, and the officer had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit, the complaint said.
The driver then sped down Timber Lane, stirring up dust and the officer lost sight of the car, according to the report. As he called for backup, he found the Chrysler had crashed in the woods and was still running with the keys in the ignition, but the driver was gone.
Officers from Pulaski, Union, Bessemer, Neshannock Township and New Castle police and state police and a helicopter joined the search for Williams, the court papers said.
A passer-by called 911 around 8:45 p.m. reporting a suspicious man walking on Skyhill Road, and the police spotted the suspect talking to someone outside of a house there. Williams reportedly had advised the person that he had just crashed his car and that he was wanted on warrants, the complaint states.
The police arrested Williams, and meanwhile the resident told police that Williams had run over to the side of his house, then returned. The police summoned the Union officer with Draco, who showed alert behavior indicating the presence of a drug. A state trooper found a white powdery substance spread over rocks inside a bush, and two ripped plastic bags were nearby. The trooper field tested the substance and identified it as suspected heroin, according to the report.
Police said Williams had multiple scratches on him from bushes, and his feet were soaked and mud-covered. At the Mahoning police station, he admitted to owning the heroin, the report said. He reportedly told police that he ran because he believed he was wanted on warrants, and because he “had always wanted to be involved in a police pursuit.”
Williams had become sick and threw up at the police station, and was taken to UPMC Jameson for medical review, police said.
The Mahoning officer who arrested Williams reported that he had ripped his uniform pants and a pair of police boots. Williams also will owe restitution the Union Township police for Draco’s medical bills, police said.
He is charged with two counts each of aggravated assault and possession of controlled substances, three counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count each of fleeing and eluding police, recklessly endangering another person, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, reckless driving, careless driving, driving at unsafe speed, failure to use a turn signal and driving without a license.
He was arraigned by District Judge Jerry G. Cartwright, who committed him to the Lawrence County jail on a $100,000 bond.