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Forum Communications, Published September 18 2012

Dog gets gun after shoplifter flees Minnesota Walmart

CLOQUET, Minn. - The Cloquet Police Department got a helping hand — and a highly trained nose — from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently after a man allegedly threw a shoplifted BB-pellet handgun into the woods behind Zion Lutheran Church on Washington Avenue in Cloquet.

Cloquet Police Sgt. Tory Cawcutt said police got a call from a loss-prevention employee at the Walmart store in Cloquet on Sept. 7 reporting that a shoplifter was fleeing the store and was in the wooded area near Zion Lutheran Church.

Cawcutt responded and parked at Zion. Shortly afterward, Cawcutt said, a man exited the wooded area, and when Cawcutt identified himself the man ran away.

“I caught up with him after about 40 yards and took him into custody,” Cawcutt said.

Arrested was Kent Bruce Olson, 34, of Cloquet. Cawcutt said Olson had a pellet handgun manual in his possession but not a gun. The wooded area between the two streets is at least a half-acre, and a lengthy search turned up nothing.

That’s when Cawcutt contacted Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Scott Staples and his K9 partner, Schody, to see if the pair could search the woods.

Looking after dark, the initial two-hour search was unsuccessful. However, Staples and Schody looked again on Saturday and found the BB gun in tall grass near a pine tree. Staples said in the daylight he could see two areas of thick grass that they hadn’t noticed the night before. Schody found nothing in the first site, but the K9 was searching the second grassy area for only a few minutes when “his head shot under grass and he came up with the gun in his mouth,” Staples said.

“It was almost 24 hours later when Schody found that gun,” Cawcutt said. “That’s impressive. It was great for evidence, but it’s also nice to recover the gun for safety reasons, especially if a little kid were to find that gun. There are trails back there that a lot of people use to travel back and forth.”

The biggest difference between the dogs used by police and those used by the Minnesota DNR is training, Staples said. DNR K9s are trained to detect fish and game rather than narcotics. However, like a police patrol dog, Schody has been trained to detect and retrieve “articles,” basically anything that’s been touched by a human recently. Staples said that could be anything from a credit card to a set of keys, a matchbook or a gun.

“For testing, we have to retrieve two different articles,” Staples said, noting that the tests are usually done within 10 to 15 minutes (of a person touching the item) in 30- by 35-foot pads. “In the real world, you work what you can with them. I’ve never done a search that long afterward; it kind of surprised me. I’m guessing that the gun still had some human odor on it that he grabbed it and picked it up.”

Staples said he and Schody are happy to help local law enforcement when they can.

Olson appeared last week in Carlton County Court on two misdemeanor charges of theft and fleeing a police officer by means other than a motor vehicle.