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Copyright 2005 Albuquerque Tribune
Albuquerque Tribune (New Mexico)

Police dog shot after attacking officer

By Maggie Shepard [email protected]

A Bernalillo County sheriff's canine apparently mistook a deputy for a fleeing armed robbery suspect, and the error cost the dog his life.

The deputy shot the dog to get him off her deeply punctured arm about 11 a.m. Monday, department spokeswoman Erin Kinnard said.

Deputy Heather Schreckendgust underwent surgery for her arm injury Monday afternoon. Kinnard said the deputy's prognosis wasn't clear.

Schreckendgust was guarding a stash of stolen items while other deputies and canine units searched the ditch banks and surrounding areas near Le Avenue and Isleta Boulevard Southwest in the South Valley.

Kinnard said deputies were looking for suspects in a stabbing call at the Malpais Chevron gas station at Isleta Boulevard and Malpais Road Southwest. Deputies chased the car along a ditch, where it crashed and two of three suspects were apprehended, Kinnard said.

A third suspect was caught about 8 p.m.

Schreckendgust was monitoring a pile of stolen goods when the canine, Bart, emerged from foliage and bit her arm, Undersheriff Sal Baragiola said. She fired three shots, and the dog died instantly.

Bart's handler, Deputy Larry Harlan was about 10 seconds behind his dog when he heard calls for help, Baragiola said.

Baragiola said it isn't unusual for dogs to bite suspects, but they routinely ignore deputies.

Schreckendgust was in plainclothes and possibly an official jacket, Kinnard said.

"Was that a factor? We don't know. We just don't know what made him bite her," Baragiola said.

Bart, a Belgian Malinois, was about 6 years old and had spent about four years on the force. Kinnard said the dog's actions were the subject of one pending lawsuit against the department.

She said it is just a coincidence that his name is the same as an Albuquerque Police Department canine that has been named in lawsuits for excessive biting.

The dog's death leaves the department with four canines.
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