K9 back on patrol after run-in with suspect

Oldo lunges at Officer Allen Kwiatkowski of the GJPD.

Officer Geraldine Earthman of the Grand Junction Police Department describes the injuries to Oldo, a police dog that she handles, after he was nearly drowned by a robbery suspect last week.

To serve and protect, and bite when necessary.

Oldo, the 8-year-old police dog who was injured last week taking down a burglary suspect, was back on duty Tuesday and ready to take another bite out of crime, said his handler, Grand Junction Police Department officer Geraldine Earthman.

The German shepherd, the oldest dog in the police department’s three-dog K-9 unit, was injured and knocked unconscious last week when he and other officers tried to apprehend Richard Stieb, a 38-year-old Grand Junction man who now faces numerous charges.

During an Aug. 11 arrest, Oldo tracked Stieb about a quarter-mile from the scene of a suspected burglary at 1766 L 1/2 Road.

According to Stieb’s arrest affidavit, three law enforcement officers said they watched the suspect grab Oldo and pull him into an irrigation canal, nearly drowning him.

Stieb, who has a long arrest history, was booked into Mesa County Jail on suspicion of first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, menacing, possessing a weapon as a prior offender, aggravated cruelty to animals, prohibited use of a firearm and reckless endangerment. And because of seven prior felony convictions, he faces habitual-offender charges, which come with a maximum sentence of 64 years if convicted.

Earthman said Oldo nearly died during that arrest, but the dog she has trained for more than three years is happy to do it all again.

“He’s here to take the danger any time possible instead of putting a human in that place,” Earthman said. “This just goes to show there’s a huge need for them.”

As Oldo restlessly chewed on a leather chew Earthman told media the first day the dog was back on the job that her initial fear when she pulled him from the canal was he was going to die. She had lost a police dog before in the line the duty, and she feared it was about to happen again.

But when Oldo came to, Earthman breathed a sigh of relief. She immediately took him to a nearby veterinary hospital, which has since cleared him for duty.

“It scared me to death because I figured he was going to die,” Earthman said. “He’s my partner, he’s my buddy, he’s my kid. But to him, it’s like nothing ever happened. He’s rarin’ to go.”


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