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Suspect captured by Gator in Rice Lake

Nathan Lewis

A pursuit early Tuesday morning ended in Rice Lake with the suspect fully submerged, except for his face, in the water in at attempt to hide from police officers. 

And if it weren’t for Baxter’s K-9 officer, Gator, locating the suspect in the water, Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said officers might not have located him. 

“Gator is incredible,” Bestul said. “He’s very much the reason why we got that guy.”

Police first responded to the area at 3:13 a.m. after receiving an all-terrain vehicle complaint in northeast Brainerd. 

Officers located the four-wheeler on 10th Avenue Northeast, at which point the suspect fled — first on the four-wheeler, then on foot. Officers from the Baxter Police Department, including Gator and his partner and handler, Baxter Police Officer Matt Maier; and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the pursuit and search for the suspect. 

The suspect, Nathan Donald Lewis, 18, Brainerd, had entered Rice Lake, Bestul said, and was laying back in the water with only his face above the surface. Gator led Maier to the water and Lewis was arrested in the water.

It was later learned that the four-wheeler Lewis was driving was stolen, Bestul said. 

Lewis was arrested for felony fleeing a police officer and felony theft and is being held in the Crow Wing County Jail pending formal criminal charges being filed by the Crow Wing County Attorney’s office. 

Lewis’ criminal history includes charges of felony first-degree damage to property, felony third-degree burglary and felony terroristic threats.

Lewis’ arrest was Maier’s and Gator’s second Tuesday morning and third in three days. 

At 12:27 a.m. on Tuesday, Maier and Gator assisted the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department in the arrest of a 25-year-old man for felony probation violation when he fled on foot after allegedly damaging a house on 10000 block of River Hills Circle while intoxicated.

At 2:57 a.m. Sunday officers arrested a 22-year-old man for felony fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and for violation of an instructional permit on the 500 block of South Eighth Street in Brainerd.

Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said Maier and Gator are the only street certified K-9 team in the area and are often called to assist other agencies in Crow Wing County. 

“It’s a huge asset to Baxter, Brainerd, Crow Wing County and just law enforcement in general in this area,” Exsted said. “It’s fun for the officer, fun for the dog to get those finds. A lot of people believe these officers wait for the (K-9 officer to) bite but that’s not the case at all, especially not with officer Maier. He takes pride in, professional satisfaction, that he can track and find.”

The K-9 team is so much of an asset, Exsted said, that this year Maier put together a training seminar for all law enforcement in Crow Wing County to learn how the K-9 team would respond and how they will work when their assistance is requested. 

In July, Maier and Gator competed in regional police service dog trials, taking second place out of 89 teams. 

“It’s quite an accomplishment and we’re very proud of him,” Exsted said. 

Gator, a Belgian Malinois, and Maier have been partners for about three years. 

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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