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Canine helps catch suspect on first day of duty

St. Helens man flees deputies on motorcycle before being tracked by new canine deputy

COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PHOTO - Lars, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office's new canine deputy. On his first night of duty, Lars successfully tracked and helped deputies catch a suspect who fled on foot.A canine deputy on his first week of official duty with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office helped nab two suspects who attempted to flee from deputies.

Lars, a Belgian Malinois who joined the Sheriff’s Office team last November, helped catch a motorcyclist who eluded deputies after crashing his bike and fleeing last Friday, March 11.

Vaughn Yeramian, 35, of St. Helens, tried to flee from a traffic stop on his motorcycle at 3:12 p.m. Friday on Meissner Road near Canaan Road, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Yeramian crashed his bike on Lawrence Road, where his passenger, 21-year-old Alicia Yeager, surrendered.

COLUMBIA COUNTY JAIL PHOTO - YERAMIANYeramian ran away on foot, but was soon intercepted by Lars. Friday was Lars’ first day of duty with his handler, Deputy Ryan Dews, after both graduated from the police canine academy in Washington County earlier that week.

Lars is currently the only canine deputy in Columbia County.

Deputies pursued Yeramian on his motorcycle for less than 10 minutes, before Lars helped track and capture Yeramian on foot in less than two minutes, Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said.

Redefining ‘Dog Days

Three days after Lars helped deputies track the fleeing suspect, he came through for the Sheriff’s Office again Monday, March 14, when deputies went to a house on Bishop Creek Road, looking for suspects tied to a stolen vehicle case.

A man at the house had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a credit card fraud case out of Clackamas County, Dickerson said.

James D. Brewer, 46, of Deer Island, ran into the woods when deputies arrived, but surrendered once he realized the dog was onto his scent. Brewer was arrested on the outstanding warrant for failure to appear.

Dickerson said Lars has proven to be a “game changer” for his office.

“This is what we envisioned when we went for this [canine],” Dickerson said Monday. “Particularly for us, we’re in the rural parts of the county and it’s our deputies that get into these chases and they end up spending a lot of time on these things when it happens.”

Dickerson said having a dog on duty reduces time spent tracking suspects, but it also increases the safety of deputies.

The sheriff said chases with suspects are fairly common, but before Lars joined the staff, law enforcement agencies in the county found themselves waiting hours for the assistance of a canine unit from an outside agency.

In November 2015, law enforcement agencies credited the help of a police canine from Washington County with helping to catch a fugitive kidnapping suspect in Scappoose.

The incident led Dickerson to consider acquiring a dog for his own department.

“This is very exciting for us,” Dickerson stated in a news release Friday, March 11. “For years we have wanted to be able to provide this kind of capability to our deputies, and to have it work out so quickly for us is an extra benefit.”

News of Lars’ successful catch garnered more attention on the CCSO Facebook page than any other post from the agency, Dickerson said.

He said if the canine deputy continues to be successful, the Sheriff’s Office might consider adding an additional four-legged deputy.

Yeramian is being held in the Columbia County Jail on $66,250 bail related to prior crimes of first degree burglary, theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He also has a parole violation on his record, which will likely bar his release from jail, Dickerson noted.