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Man arrested in dog attack on police officer also charged in prior, similar attack

Published: Tuesday, June 12 2012 12:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Police have arrested a man whose dog is accused of attacking a police officer.

Incidentally, the same dog owner, 23-year-old Aaron Ray Thomas, is already facing charges in connection with a similar incident. On May 15, Thomas was arrested for allegedly ordering his dog, a pit bull, to attack a man in an electric wheelchair.

He was later charged with aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, a second-degree felony, but never appeared in court and a $5,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.

Thomas was arrested Monday in connection with a second alleged attack — this time on a police officer.

Officers responded to a coffee shop at 2358 S. Foothill Drive just before 5 a.m. Sunday after getting reports of a transient problem, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson said. When officers arrived, they found a 23-year-old man asleep at the coffee shop.

The man provided "inconsistent information about his identity" before running from police. When one of the officers caught Thomas, the dog, also a pit bull, bit the officer's arm.

The officer then deployed a Taser and the dog released. Both Thomas and the dog fled.

Josephson said officers knew they were looking for Thomas due to some of the man's distinguishing features. He was found at a bus stop bench in the same area Monday around 9 p.m.

"Once he was challenged by a K-9 team, (Thomas) gave up without a fight," Josephson said of the man's arrest Monday.

Police do not know where the dog is and are unsure if it is the same animal involved in the May 15 incident. They are working to track it down and determine what to do next with the animal, Josephson said.

Finding the dog will also determine treatment for the officer who was bit. He was transported to the hospital after the incident with "deep wounds."

"He'll be fine, but he's going to take some time to recover from his injuries," Josephson said. "Not having the dog, we don’t know about rabies and things of that nature, so we're taking precautions there."

Josephson said police can only do so much to prevent these types of incidents. Once their investigation is complete, it's a matter for the courts.

"The only thing that we can do is investigate matters as they happen and do our best to document that facts so they stand trial for what they do," Josephson said. "As far as changing people's behavior, there's not a lot we can do until people make a conscious decision to change their own life. We can do the best we can to protect the citizens but hopefully something motivates them to change their behavior."

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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