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5-foot-long snake, officer's lunch only casualties of police pursuit Saturday

The Brainerd Police Department's K-9, Keno, is having a good Memorial Day weekend so far: he helped nab a fleeing suspect. The suspect's snake, which was apparently riding along in the car with him before he allegedly fled police, is not having a...

Keno, a Brainerd Police Department K9, does a celebratory leap after successfully apprehending a suspect in some marshland Saturday. Photo credit: Brainerd Police Department Facebook
Keno, a Brainerd Police Department K9, does a celebratory leap after successfully apprehending a suspect in some marshland Saturday. Photo credit: Brainerd Police Department Facebook

The Brainerd Police Department's K-9, Keno, is having a good Memorial Day weekend so far: he helped nab a fleeing suspect.

The suspect's snake, which was apparently riding along in the car with him before he allegedly fled police, is not having a good Memorial Day weekend, because it has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Keno and his handler, Sgt. Paul Dooley, were requested to help the Pequot Lakes Police Department after a vehicle pursuit suspect fled into the woods near Sibley Lake, a post on the Brainerd Police Department's Facebook page said Saturday.

"With a little (okay it was huge) help from a state patrol helicopter, the suspect was located hiding in a swamp and taken into custody," the post said. "Nobody was hurt and Keno got a needed bath before coming in for work tonight!"

Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang helped fill in some more details via a phone interview.

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Klang said Officer Steve Emerson was eating lunch at the Dairy Queen in Pequot Lakes early Saturday afternoon when he spotted Robbie Alan Orth, 32, in the Dairy Queen's drive-through. Orth had an outstanding felony warrant, and when Emerson tried to pull Orth over, the suspect fled in his vehicle, Klang said. The high-speed pursuit lasted for about a mile, until Orth allegedly bailed out of the vehicle and fled on foot.

Orth then hid in a marshy area adjacent to the lake, Klang said.

The responding Minnesota State Patrol helicopter picked up an anomaly on its FLIR imaging system, Klang said, but they were unsure what it was because the Orth was crouched down.

Keno pinpointed where Orth was hiding, Klang said. He was initially reluctant to come out, so officers requested a boat team from the Crow County Sheriff's Office to help to go in and get him. However, the boat team's trailer was hit by another car on the way to the site, knocking the boat off on its side and the axle off the trailer, Klang said.

Eventually, the cold water prompted Orth to wade out on his own, Klang said.

Inside Orth's vehicle, police opened a bag to find what Klang described as a 5-foot-long "blow snake." Unable to positively identify the snake as non-venomous at the time, police euthanized it, Klang said.

The snake was likely a western hognose snake, commonly referred to as a "blow" snake, Klang said. Native to North America, including Minnesota, the western hognose can be confused for the more dangerous rattlesnake due to the similar pattern on its back. The western hognose, however, is nonvenomous.

Up until Saturday, Orth had repeatedly slithered out of the grasp of police.

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"We've tried to arrest him a number of times, and many times he's evaded us," Klang said. "We just haven't been able to get him because the dog hasn't been available, or Trooper 7 (state patrol helicopter) hasn't been available. But this time, everything lined up."

In addition to the original warrant, Orth now faces more charges related to fleeing police, Klang said.

Together with fellow rookie K-9 Karma, Keno joined the Brainerd Police Department in October of 2014. The two daring dogs are of Belgian Malinois breed. Keno celebrated his fourth birthday May 18.

Emerson did not get to finish his Dairy Queen meal, Klang said.

Keno training in 2014
Keno training in 2014

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