Canine deputy bites suspect scrap thief

"Sheriff's Office K-9, stop or you will be bit," wasn't enough of a command for William Snell to obey it.

Neither was the second warning, that deputy Ajax would bite if he was forced to sniff out Snell, a 29-year-old Bremerton resident hiding behind a tree.

"If he finds you, he will bite you. Come out with your hands up," said Ajax' partner, Kitsap County sheriff's deputy Joe Hedstrom, just before loosing his K-9 partner to start searching the wooded lot on Central Valley Road. Both were responding to a Puget Sound Energy substation intruder alarm replete with video showing one man inside the security fence.

Snell allegedly ran into the woods after the deputy interrupted the daylight burglary attempt to steal thick copper wires from the PSE substation on the 5500 block of Central Valley Road Dec. 7.

During the last six months, PSE substations have been burgled and vandalized by thieves after copper wire, which has a high scrap and recycle value. One substation was hit twice in a month last summer. The second time was valued at $10,000, the sheriff's office said at the time. There have been a rash of similar incidents in neighboring counties.

Authorities last week found a stash of burglary tools, some specific to substation work, spread around the Central Valley site and in the woods shortly before deputy Ajax bit Snell on the foot and took his shoe.

Later they found more tools in Snell's car along with heroin and syringes, according to deputy Justin Childs

"I came around a corner of a tree to observe Ajax had a male by the left foot," Hedstrom said. "I advised Snell to stop yelling and not look at the dog, look the other way."

Hedstrom said Snell later explained, while being treated for the dog bite, that he couldn't tell if the warnings about the K-9 and the possibility of being bitten was actually the deputy declaring orders or his alleged accomplice, Levi Coppinger, yelling at him to run.

Coppinger, a 26-year-old homeless man, ran again later when deputies found him at a nearby Handy Pantry convenience store where he used a phone to call Snell's wife for a pick up. Authorities described Coppinger as 5 foot 10 inches tall, medium to skinny build, with sandy blond hair and a full beard, hair unkempt and wearing camouflage.

Snell was booked in to the Kitsap Count Jail for second degree burglary and held on $10,000 bail, according to a report from the sheriff's office. Snell told authorities that he was acting as the lookout during the small "scraping" operation to gather wire, according to deputy Schon Montague.

Authorities said that Snell's wife reported seeing her husband burning the coating off of wire in the days before the interrupted Central Valley burglary.

According to authorities, Snell's ultimate excuse for involvement was based in financial troubles. He was short on rent money, they said.


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