A K-9 team helped find three teenage suspects who committed more than $250,000 in property damage to heavy moving equipment at a Haughton dirt pit earlier this week.
A couple of 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old from Bossier Parish were arrested mid-week on arson and property damage charges following an investigation that began Monday in which a K-9 team led investigators right to the perpetrators’ residences.
When one of the owners of Red Chute Dirt Pit at 1800 Bellevue Road in Haughton arrived at the worksite Monday morning, he found that some of the heavy earth-moving equipment had been vandalized. Someone had broken the windows out of two Caterpillar track hoes and one Caterpillar dozer, and all three of them were spray painted purple with graffiti. One of the track hoes, a Caterpillar 234D hydraulic excavator, was also caught on fire, and the total damage loss was more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Bossier Sheriff’s detectives and the Louisiana State Fire Marshall’s Office agents arrived at the scene Monday morning to begin the investigation. Although there was little evidence at the scene, they did find three small sets of muddy footprints all around the three machines.
Investigators discovered the footprints led away from the heavy equipment in the direction of the very populated Dogwood Subdivision. Detectives enlisted the support of one of their K-9 bloodhounds and his handler. Within 30 minutes of their arrival just prior to noon, the K-9 team picked up a track from the three footprints that led them on a nearly one-mile trail through mud, creeks, open grassy fields, wooded areas and asphalt. About an hour later, the dog and his handler led investigators to a residence on Ginger Drive in Dogwood. A short time later, the team completed their track at a nearby house. Both homes were where the teenage culprits had returned from the dirt pit.
Investigators would later determine the boys had vandalized the equipment sometime late in the morning of Feb. 4. It had rained that morning, and although the track was two days old when the bloodhound picked it up late Monday morning, the K-9 team led investigators right to two residences. Muddy shoes were found at both homes.
“Our K-9 team does a wonderful job training all year round in order to come out and perform their job as wonderfully as they did in this case,” said Bossier Sheriff Larry Deen. “While some of our investigations may take days or longer, the bloodhound and his deputy handler were able to determine suspects after being on the case for about two hours and covering a one-mile track through mixed landscape. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they performed in helping to solve this case.”
Based on the success of the K-9 track and further investigation by detectives, two 13-year old boys and one 14-year-old boy from Bossier Parish were eventually arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with simple arson, criminal property damage by graffiti, simple criminal property damage, theft, and trespassing. They were transported to the Ware Youth Detention Center in Coushatta for booking.
The Bossier Sheriff’s Department K-9 team is comprised of four handlers who work with four bloodhounds, two narcotics dogs and one dual-purpose dog. The bloodhounds are primarily used to track humans and pick up a scent and follow it for hours due to their remarkable sense of smell. The bloodhound’s nose openings are larger than most other breeds. The large, long ears serve to prevent wind from scattering nearby skin cells while the dog’s nose is on the ground, and the folds of the wrinkled flesh under the lips and neck serve to catch stray scent particles.