Traffic stop leads to drug arrests; K-9 apprehends suspect

A traffic stop last week led to multiple drug arrests, as well as a K-9 apprehension after one suspect fled on foot.

Isanti County Deputy Noah Heiller was running radar around 2:35 a.m. Feb. 3 on Highway 47, north of 299th Avenue, near Bradford, when he clocked a vehicle going 63 mph in a 55 mph zone. The vehicle sped past him and Heiller turned on his lights to initiate a traffic stop for speeding. The vehicle made a sudden turn into a driveway and got stuck in the snow.

When Heiller approached the vehicle, he saw tracks leading away from the vehicle and asked Isanti County Deputy Jonathan VanderVegt to respond with his K-9 partner Kojak. After a search of the area in frigid temperatures, Kojak found the driver hiding under the deck of a private residence and bit him. The driver then gave himself up. During the search, Heiller yelled several times that he was using Kojak and gave K-9 warnings. Three passengers in the car were also arrested.

The following were charged Feb. 5 in Isanti County District Court before Judge Karla Hancock:

• Trever James Bakke, 43, Andover. Charged with felony fifth-degree drug possession-subsequent conviction. Bail was set at $100,000 without conditions or $40,000 with conditions and next court appearance for Feb. 13.

• Nicholas Anthony Leahy, 35, St. Francis. Charged with felony fifth-degree drug possession, misdemeanor fleeing a peace officer by means other than motor vehicle and misdemeanor driving after revocation. Bail was set at $70,000 without conditions or $20,000 with conditions and next court appearance for Feb. 19.

• Angela Kathryne Bassett, 33, Isle. Charged with fifth-degree drug possession, a misdemeanor related to possession of hypodermic needles-syringes, and petty misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. Bail was set at $37,000 without conditions or $12,000 with conditions and next court appearance for Feb. 19.

• Jeremy John Stapher, 34, St. Francis. Charged with felony fifth-degree drug possession-subsequent conviction. Bail was set at $35,000 without conditions or $15,000 with conditions and next court appearance for Feb. 12.

During a search of the vehicle, a black box was found near where Bassett was seated. Inside the box, deputies found a small bag of syringes and a broken pipe that tested positive for methamphetamine. Another small bag was found inside the driver’s side door that tested positive for meth and weighed 1.5 grams.

“We understand that when our police dogs apprehend a suspect with their mouths and bite them, it’s a pretty painful thing, but then again, these aren’t suspects who stole a candy bar from a gas station,” said Isanti County Chief Deputy Chris Caulk. “Using the K-9 involves a crime of more serious nature, and in this case, the driver had felony warrants out for his arrest. When we are searching for a suspect that has fled, we don’t know if that person is armed. Most of the time, the mere presence of the K-9 convinces the suspect to give up. Most of the time, these arrests are made without incident.”

VanderVegt took Leahy to the Cambridge Medical Center emergency room to have his dog bite looked at. The doctor said treatment wasn’t needed and Leahy could return to jail, but noted he did suffer some minor frostbite to his ankles from the cold temperatures.

According to the criminal complaints, Leahy had felony warrants for his arrest, as did Bakke.

The complaint added Leahy has prior convictions for controlled substance in Anoka County on April 12, 2004, and Aug. 23, 2005. Stapher has prior convictions for controlled substance in Anoka County on Nov. 2, 2006, and Isanti County on Sept. 3, 2010. Bakke has prior convictions for controlled substances in Isanti County on Oct. 1, 2009, and Oct. 18, 2012. Bassett has two current cases for controlled substance in Isanti County set for sentencing Feb. 19.

Caulk, who was the Isanti County K-9 handler from 2003-2010, said out of 175 incidents, his K-9 only physically apprehended a suspect three times.

“Using the K-9 is a great tool for Isanti County law enforcement agencies,” Caulk said. “In this situation, we had a person with a history, who hadn’t been searched and was  fleeing. This tool allows us to apprehend the suspects without using a deadly weapon. We deploy the dogs to avoid a deadly force encounter.”

Caulk gave credit to the responding agencies who assisted during the traffic stop and search.

“If it were not for the aggressive traffic enforcement of Deputy Noah Heiller working traffic enforcement in the cold weather, we would not have come across this vehicle,” Caulk said. “Also a huge thanks to our fellow officers from Braham and Cambridge police departments. If it were not for them, we would not have had the perimeter set up and cover officers to watch the other suspects so that the deputies could go off and do the track. Law enforcement officers in Isanti County always work together as one big team to get the job done.”

The K-9 program, which began under the leadership of former sheriff Mike Ammend, has been supported by the community, officials said.

“Since 2003, the community has funded this program with charitable donations,” Caulk said. “Hats off to the community for their willingness to support such a great program. I feel Isanti County has done an excellent job with this program. You just don’t realize the time it takes for this program and the wear and tear this puts on the handler’s yard, home and cars. Being a K-9 handler isn’t something you can do unless you truly have a heart for it. If you put the time in, you do end up with an excellent K-9.”

K-9s are trained primarily for searches.

“When you have a suspect out in the community on a felony warrant, it’s a danger to everyone,” Caulk said. “The K-9 and his handlers are trained for situations as this one. When you are out on a search of a suspect, the handler relies on their four-legged partner to protect them. As a former K-9 handler, I know the amount of time and hard work the handler puts in with his K-9. You hope that time and hard work will pay off when needed, and in this case it did. This case proves the K-9 program does work.”

 

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