Cecil police dog hit by vehicle while chasing theft suspect
While most people might take a day or two off work after being hit by a vehicle, not so for Cecil Township’s hardy police dog.
Miner, the 6-year-old German shepherd, was back on duty with Officer Jeff Holt less than 24 hours after he was hit by a vehicle the night of Dec. 1 on Morganza Road while attempting to chase down a man suspected of stealing a pickup truck earlier that day.
Chuck Edward Buchko, 36, of Brookville, Jefferson County, was taken into custody by Cecil police about 8:40 p.m. after a brief foot chase.
North Franklin Township police were called about 4:45 p.m. Dec. 1 by the owner of Pathfinder Navigation, 1146 W. Chestnut St., after a 2012 Ford F-150 pickup truck was discovered stolen from the lot. An employee had parked the truck about 20 minutes earlier with the keys still in the vehicle.
North Franklin police learned the truck was equipped with an onboard Global Positioning System. The truck was tracked to Route 2 in West Virginia and then onto Route 22, where police from Weirton, W.Va., gave chase before breaking off the pursuit at the West Virginia state line.
The truck was then traced to Cherry Valley Road and onto Waterdam Road and Route 50 in Hickory, Mt. Pleasant Township.
Cecil police Chief Shawn F. Bucovinsky said his department was notified about 6:20 p.m. by the 911 dispatch center of the stolen vehicle heading east on Route 50 into the township. A Cecil officer spotted the vehicle on Route 50 at Route 980 and tried to stop it, but the driver fled, eventually turning onto Muse-Bishop Road. The truck ran off the road and got stuck as the driver attempted to turn onto Cumer Road. Police said Buchko then ran through yards and into a wooded area.
Holt, who was off duty, was contacted to assist in the search with Miner. Also called to assist were Muse and Cecil firefighters, who provided thermal-imaging devices, along with police from Canonsburg, North Strabane and Chartiers townships and state police.
“We were able to track him through yards on Burnside to the Montour Trail and down to Hendersonville before we lost him,” Bucovinsky said.
After two hours, the search was called off. Bucovinsky said some Muse firefighters were on Morganza near Henderson Drive, heading back to the station, when a man later identified as the suspect stopped them and asked how to get to Washington County.
“They felt this might be the person we were looking for, so they contacted us,” Bucovinsky said.
When police tried to talk with Buchko, they said he took off running up Morganza toward Southpointe Boulevard.
“He got a head start on us,” Holt said.
Sgt. Rich Egizio got into his cruiser and started after the suspect, activating the overhead emergency lights on the vehicle.
“Sgt. Egizio got out on foot and tried to approach the actor,” Holt said.
As Miner was giving chase, followed by Holt, a vehicle went around the stopped cruiser with the flashing emergency lights and headed right for them.
“I was waving my arms, yelling, trying to get the driver’s attention,” Holt said. “The driver didn’t stop and swerved right at us.”
Holt was able to get out of the way, but Miner, who was running off his lead after the suspect, was not so lucky.
“The front passenger side of the vehicle hit him, throwing him to the side of the road,” Holt said.
Miner, who yelped when hit, was bleeding from a wound in his snout. He appeared to have suffered head and shoulder injuries.
“I saw our lives as K-9 partners pass before me in that moment,” Holt said. “I rushed to his side. He didn’t appear to be severely injured.”
While Egizio and other officers were apprehending Buchko, Southbridge medics checked the dog’s vital signs, and he was taken to Castle Shannon Emergency Veterinary Hospital for treatment. He was given some anti-inflammatory pills and cleared to return.
“I took him to work with me Monday so I could monitor him,” Holt said.
By Tuesday, Dec. 3, Miner seemed eager to be back on the job. Holt said the only sign that he was hit by the vehicle is some occasional soreness.
Holt said Miner is more than just his partner on the job. He’s a loved member of Holt’s family. This is the first time in their five-year partnership that Miner has suffered a significant injury.
“A lot of the people in the community have been concerned about him. He has gotten a lot of community support over the years,” Holt said. “I really appreciate everyone’s concern. Some people have sent cards. Others have offered to send treats.”
Bucovinsky said it is not known why Buchko was in the Washington County area. He is not being cooperative with investigators, police added. Buchko was placed in Washington County Jail on a state parole violation. Police will consult with the district attorney’s office to determine what charges should be filed against him.