FLORENCE — A Florence police dog is being credited with helping prevent his handler from being seriously hurt Monday morning during an attack involving a drug suspect who was trying to avoid arrest, police said.
Florence police officer Zach Maxwell was treated and released from Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital after sustaining minor injuries during the attack.
Police Chief Ron Tyler said the incident is a perfect example of the importance of police dogs.
Maxwell’s canine partner, Rex, helped take Charles Raymond Nixon, 40, 307 N. Crown St., Florence, into custody, police said.
Florence police Lt. Tim Wooten said Maxwell, while trying to catch Nixon, was able to remotely release Rex from the patrol car.
“Zach caught Nixon and (Nixon) was hitting him in the face when Rex came up and assisted in the apprehension,” Wooten said.
Nixon also was taken to the hospital where he was treated and released. He was charged with a felony assaulting a police officer, based on police records. He also is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, Wooten said.
Maxwell said the incident was the first time he and Rex have been involved in that kind of situation, but they train for handler protection.
“(Rex) reacted exactly like we wanted him to, just like we trained for,” said Maxwell, who has been the dog’s handler for about 18 months.
Maxwell said he is doing OK.
Wooten said the assault and arrest happened after a traffic stop was made by officer Michael Price at Patterson and Beale streets about 10:45 a.m.
“One of the men in the car had outstanding warrants, and he was taken into custody,” Wooten said. “The canine unit was called to make a search of the car.”
Wooten said the dog found drugs inside the car. When the officer tried to arrest Nixon, he took off running.
“(Maxwell) was putting his dog in his car when (Nixon) took off, and he went after him,” Wooten said. “While he was running, he activated the remote release that allowed the dog out of the car.”
Maxwell said the remote release and Rex’s training were keys in getting the situation quickly under control.
“This is a classic story of why we have that remote release button,” Tyler said.
“Rex was able to bring a quick resolution to the problem. He is there to protect the officer and he did his job.
“We are committed to the canine program and this is a perfect example of why. He found drugs at a traffic stop and protected his handler.”
Nixon, a TimesDaily employee, is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.