Partner of K-9 getting choked: 'He was dragging the dog'

Man loses finger after choking police K9

SALEM, Ore. - A suspect with a warrant out for his arrest choked a Salem K-9 that had been aiding in his capture, according to police, and the man's finger had to be amputated later.

Suspect Justin Lazo's finger got stuck in the police dog's collar during the attack, explained Lt. Dave Okada with the Salem Police Department.  The K-9 survived with no serious injuries, but Lazo's finger was severely injured.

The incident began when officers responded to reports of a man acting strange and going up to houses in the area of 15th Street and Wilbur Street SE, just before 1 p.m. on Saturday. Officers arrived and learned the man had an arrest warrant.

Police said Lazo fled and was chased by a K-9 named Duke. When the dog reached Lazo, he bit the suspect.  Lazo fought back and grabbed Duke around the neck.  

"He was dragging the dog, pulling him into his back, rolled over on top, rolling in circles on the ground while he had a hold of his pinch collar with both hands," said Duke's partner officer Bruce Fineran. "I've been [K-9] handling for 20 years. I have never seen somebody grab a dog's collar like that."

Fineran said it took six minutes for the three officers to subdue Lazo. He said they had to use pepper spray, Tazers and batons to get him to stop choking Duke.

"I thought he was going to kill the dog... I could tell, he could not breathe," Fineran said.  "We were trying to do a lot of things to try and release his grip."

Duke was unconscious and limp after the attack.  It was a tough thing for Fineran to see.

"He was gasping, his eyes were shut," Fineran recalled. 

Duke was rushed to an animal hospital and has since made a full recovery. (Click here to view photos of Duke on mobile.)

Lazo suffered dog bites and his finger was almost completely severed by Duke's collar.  He was rushed to a local hospital for treatment, but his ring finger could not be successfully reattached, Okada said.

No one else was injured.

Lazo's arrest warrant was out of Clackamas County, for possession of heroin.  

After he was cleared to leave the hospital, Lazo was booked into the Marion County Jail on several new charges, including resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer, giving false information to police, and assault on a K-9.  No bail was set.

As for Duke, officer Fineran was glad to have his trusted partner back on Sunday.  "It is a special bond. We trust each other, to get through that shift and go home at the end of the day." 

Fineran has worked as an officer for 32 years, including 20 as a K-9 handler.  Duke is his fourth K-9 partner.

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