Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas police dog helps in arrests of two men Saturday

A police dog and its deputy handler tracked and arrested two men in separate crimes early Saturday morning, both of whom had run from authorities and tried to hide.

About 2 a.m., deputies responded to a Dunedin home for a domestic disturbance call. There they found 18-year-old Jacob P. Torrens, intoxicated and unruly, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

When Deputy Jana Demperio tried to arrest Torrens, he pushed away and struck the deputy in the arm, which made her fall and break her leg, authorities said.

Torrens then ran eastbound on McLean Street, where Deputy Jacob Viano and police dog Chief tracked Torrens to a block away, where he hid behind a wall, the Sheriff's Office said.

Torrens put up a fight, deputies said, and Chief chomped down on his arms and legs. An ambulance took Torrens to the hospital and he was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries. Authorities charged Torrens with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. He was transferred to Pinellas County Jail and released on $10,000 bail.

An hour after that incident, Viano and Chief responded to a call about a man seen breaking into cars in Palm Harbor.

Investigators learned that the man had tried to break into at least six cars in the area. Authorities searched for a gray truck. After a deputy tried to pull it over, the truck sped across Omaha Street, through a retention pond and crashed into a mailbox, the Sheriff's Office said. The driver ran off.

Viano and Chief found Justin A. Nicholas, 25, hiding beneath a car in front of 1450 Saddle Court.

Authorities charged Nicholas with several counts of attempted burglary, grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding, driving with a suspended license, and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage. He was taken to Pinellas County Jail and was held on $81,000 bail.

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