May 26, 2012

A doozy of a week!

On the 16th, I packed up the van, loaded Dazzle and Bear and headed to MI for the Dog Scouts of America Leadership Retreat.  Because I arrived early, I helped with some of the clean up and the camp is looking FANTASTIC! 

Dazzle and Bear both enjoyed the lake.
 Breaking the sound barrier in low flight

Eyes and ears- Canine Target Aquisition Devices

Water wings:

Can you hear the theme from Jaws playing?  Look out Bear!  Behind you! It's a Maligator!

Who can resist this face?

My favorite shot of the week. Taken the first morning we were at camp, while there was still some fog on the lake. I tried to get him to take a step forward so his breathing wouldn't disturb the mirror like surface, but he came bounding in to shore to get his ball instead.

This is a close second of my favorite shots - taken just after the above photo

I helped direct the driver during the delivery of the new 1 room cabins.  They are SO nice!! 

The driver gets the back of the cabin in place and then raises the trailer until the back edge is touching the ground.  Then he pulls the trailer forward slowly to gently lower the cabin.

Just before it is fully on the ground, he can use a side to side feature of the trailer to make up to a 3' adjustment of the cabin's position on the lot.  Pretty cool system!  And it was clear this driver had done this many times.

The Retreat went off without a hitch and we had some informative presentations and very creative ideas presented.  The retreat ended at lunch time on Monday, but just before lunch there was a hike on the schedule. 

I have to stop here and say that the area around camp is rural and the kind of area where people don't bother to lock their doors.  Where they leave their car keys in their vehicles and where the crime rate is VERY low.  So what unfolded was a big surprise to all the residents. And since I know my mother reads my blog, I'll also say upfront that everyone involved is ok and I'm back home safe and sound. :-)

While some of the attendees were out on the trails, an officer armed with an M16? arrived at the door to inform us that a convict had escaped near by and was armed with a .45 pistol. (This photo was of a different officer coming to check on us- taken through the screen in the door)

I told him we had hikers out on the trail and that I would go get them.  He expressed concern, but I let him know I was armed and had been an officer in a major metro city for over 8 years.  He relaxed and sent me on my way as another person rang the emergency bell multiple times to call in everyone within ear shot.

I jumped in the golf cart and headed off to find the hikers.  They said that when I came zooming up, my news about the escaped, armed convict was the LAST thing any of them would have guessed I was about to say.  I escorted them back to the lodge where we gathered our dogs and ate lunch locked inside. 

Most of the attendees had planned to leave after lunch, so I stood guard while they packed up their vehicles to head home.  At one point I thought I heard foot steps through the woods, but since it continued while Vikki came out of the lodge and started talking to me, I assume it was just a critter jumping through the leaves in a footstep tempo.  And when I moved around to get a better look through the trees I didn't see anything.  Although seeing the non-nature colored, blue ribbon hanging from the property boundry wire gave my heart a start for 1/2 second!  We found out later that each person who left had encountered a police road block on the road to camp and had their vehicles and trailers searched to be sure they were not transporting the criminal out of the area. 

By about 1pm, it was just me, Lonnie and Ann remaining.  We had made sure all buildings that could be locked were locked and all keys were out of all vehicles and all vehicles were locked up.  Lonnie had gone and gotten her gun and I gave Ann (former military) my spare (Glock 17) so we were all armed.  All the officers we spoke to said they were glad to see that and we spoke to a LOT of officers from State police to Game Wardens to K-9 and even some "Safety Officers" (at least that's what the side of their car said).  We let them know there were just 3 of us in the lodge and that they had permission to search any other structure on the property, which they did multiple times.

Almost all of these photos were taken from inside the lodge where we were staying.

We found the door to this trailer open, when we know it wasn't open before, but no evidence of any foul play was found inside.  It must have blown open after not being closed completely after a previous search.

Because there were so many different officers, I often went out to talk to them before they knocked on the door in an attempt to keep the dogs from getting too riled up.  But at one point, one of the officers made it all the way to the door before I was able to get outside.  Through the screen he asked if I was alright.  About the time those words left his mouth, he saw the Glock in my holster and several of the dogs that had heard his voice rushed over barking their fool heads off.  He said over the barking "I guess you are!"  and laughed.  But because I kept coming out to talk to them, they said they wanted to search the lodge.  We got all the dogs on leash and welcomed them in.  I didn't think about getting photos till Lonnie mouthed to me "get photos!" and they had already started their search. 
 This is one Ann got with her phone:

As events unfolded and we got info from the officers and Ann's ipad (internet news stories and comments left by neighbors) and phone calls from Lonnie's neighbors we pieced together that the convict had served 9 years for sex offenses and was being transported between prisons to serve time on a new charge of home invasion. 

He has gotten his cuffs in front of him (or been cuffed that way?) and got them around the neck of the transporting officer.  He forced the officer to pull over, took his gun and cell phone somehow as well as his vehicle.  The officer was not killed.  The convict ditched the car near where we were and took off into the dense woods.  Police put up a perimeter and road blocks and felt they had him contained. 

He only turned the phone on once shortly after running into the woods, but the officer I spoke with about using the phone to find him said the phone had not been turned on since that point.  They found his orange jump suit, but it's location was reported to be in a few different places by various sources, so I'm not sure exactly where that was found.  So new description was armed white male in white underwear (his photo was on the news reports). He also lost his prison slippers early on, so he was bare foot.

While I was outside talking to some officers and listening to their radio traffic, the helicopter spotted a trail through the swamp on the property next to us and said the trail lead our direction.  About the time that came across the radio, there was a branch snap in that direction, the officer racked his shot gun and told me to go back inside.  Since I didn't have on a bullet proof vest and no longer get paid to confront armed criminals, I was happy to comply. :-)  But of course I had to get photos! This was taken from the door of the lodge as they investigated sounds in the woods.

At one point, I was by the door to the lake trying to get a photo of the helicopter that was circling directly over the lodge we were in and Lonnie was on the other side of the lodge looking out the kitchen door.  She asked me if I saw anything and I said "I'm trying to get a shot at him (the chopper- with my camera), but he keeps going behind the trees".  Lonnie about had a heart attack because she thought I meant I was trying to get a shot at the convict with my gun!  Never did get a good photo of the chopper. 

After they followed the trail across the camp property and toward the main road, we didn't see nearly as many officers for awhile, but still heard the helicopter near by.  Which continued all night.  We took turns covering each other whenever the dogs had to go out to potty and I can't speak for the others, but I felt pretty safe with the police practically within shouting distance and all of us armed, plus the dogs.  The lodge is very well built and I knew from personally checking every window and door before going to bed that it was locked up tight.

We were hoping they would have caught him by morning, but no luck.  The FLIR (Forward Looking IfraRed) cameras on the chopper didn't spot him and the trail had gone cold.  Police still felt they had him contained and advised us to stay locked inside.  Ann needed to get back home and left early in the morning while we were all still asleep.  We called her when we got up to be sure she made it out ok and she had.  We went to the officers at the end of the driveway and let them know we had coffee for them and several came to the lodge for coffee and bathrooms.  

Lonnie spent the day sewing curtains for the new cabins and said being locked in with nothing else to do was the ONLY way she would be sewing!  LOL  I spent the day putting the final touches on the new SAR agility badges that had been proposed before my arrival, but that we fleshed out the evening prior.  Lonnie and I decided to add another level, so I worked on creating that and then making diagrams for the equipment that would need to be built.  I also got some photos of Dazzle and his girlfriend Kozi playing (their only exercise).

Yes, they are playing here:
 And here :-)

What do you MEAN I have to SHARE with her?!"

By evening, we were done with those projects and Lonnie needed to feed her birds and horses and the dogs she still had at home so we went over to her house together and got that done, and picked out some movies to watch.  We also picked up Joanne from down the street so she could spend the night in the lodge with us instead of being by herself.  Had to get through police road blocks to get her, but it wasn't a problem.  We watched movies and then went to bed.

Joanne's driveway is just in front of the closest police car.

By Wednesday morning, they still had not caught him and lifted the road blocks, allowed people to return home and we all pretty much felt like he must have gotten a ride or walked out of the area.  Because the road blocks were lifted and we were running low on food, we went to town to do some shopping.  We also stopped by a sporting goods store and picked up a new shotgun for Lonnie and pepper spray for Joanne. 

The camp maintenance men arrived (with their own retired Marine friend for their armed protection) and they got some work done around camp.  Lonnie and I drove out to the new SAR agility area and got some measurements and looked at various items around camp that might be used for the new badges. 

We grilled burgers for dinner and then the workers went back to work.  About 5 min. after I took one of them out to Lonnie's barn, more officers came up the drive and told us to get back inside immediately and lock up.  I went to get the guy I had just taken to the barn and we all spent more time locked in the lodge.  Shortly after we returned, Joanne called Lonnie and said a troop transport truck full of military personnel had just gone by her house and then she said her yard was swarming with police!

From the various info sources, we learned that the guy had walked THROUGH Joanne's side yard leaving tracks and confronted her female neighbor who was taking out the trash.  He demanded that she help him and let him into her house.  The woman refused, in spite of the gun the convict had, and locked herself in her house and called police.  New description was male white wearing white underwear that are now dirty grey (and no doubt he was COVERED in mosquito bites!)  I made the comment that maybe he will pass out from anemia and die.  Myself and one of the workers went and got Joanne and brought her to the lodge while Lonnie and the other worker went to her house to get the ammo for her shot gun.

After the workers got as much done from the "to-do" list as they could inside the lodge, they decided to try to drive home and were able to get out.  The news sources said they found a hunting blind where they suspect the convict had spent the night in a sleeping bag and had eatten some snacks that had been left or brought inside.  We were all surprised he had not broken into an abandonded vacation home for new clothes and shoes.  The police started using unmarked cars and wearing plain clothes as they drove around in attenpt to spot him.  Another night of watching movies and falling alseep listening to the helicopter overhead. 

By Thursday morning, he was still not caught and I needed to get back home.  So I loaded up, helped cover Lonnie one more time while she fed her horses and made sure she got in her house ok and headed home.  I got some photos of the Incident Command center and mobile command center as I was leaving.

It's now Saturday morning and he's still on the loose.   Here is the most recent news story from last night:

What I heard regarding the shots mentioned in the news story is that they were either someone target practicing (a stupid thing to do when the area is swarming with police!) or that it was heard on the police scanner from another area because the police scanner covers a huge area of police radio traffic. Hopefully they will be able to catch him soon, but the woods are SO dense and there are SO many hiding places.  They really need a good search dog, but the best trained dogs are the civilian SAR (Search and Recovery) dogs that won't be called in to go after an armed fugitive. I did hear the FBI was involved, but it's not mentioned in any of the news stories I saw.

So that's how I spent my summer vacation! :-)