The Alabama Forestry Commission is crediting one of their deputies for keeping his nose close to the ground, an act that lead to his first successful conviction of a crime. "Blaze", appropriately named, is the AFC's arson dog.
The police pooch's first take down stemmed from the March 2011 arrest of Brian Keith Wilson, a 46-year-old Stapleton man charged with reckless burning. Keith pleaded guilty to the charges against him on May 4 and was given a $1,000 fine and two years of probation.
The bloodhound is said to have been instrumental in the investigation after Wilson set several wildfires in Baldwin County last year. Witnesses reported observing a man in the location where the fires started. Blaze caught a scent and walked it to the house where Wilson was located.
Blaze isn't one to lounge around with a droopy face. He's already being called the one responsible for another arrest for reckless burning. AFC Law Enforcement Chief Craig Hill says a suspect is in custody for reckless burning in a May 10 case. That suspect is identified as Darren Mitchell Lavender, 47, of Mobile.
Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries officials requested the K-9's help in finding Lavender after he evaded arrest by game wardens. He's accused of setting several fires as a diversion to aid his escape. Through scene, Blaze connected evidence on the scene to the suspect.
Lavender faces a reckless burning charge ("Class A" misdemeanor) which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or up to a $6000 fine. He's also charged with hunting without permission and failure to wear hunter's orange by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
According to Chief Hill, canines have been used in law enforcement for years to locate evidence and people. As with fingerprints, each person has a unique scent.
Blaze's ability to track a human scent has added a whole new dimension to the AFC's law enforcement tool box.
Copyright 2012 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.
1720 Valley View Drive