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Dogs, stolen and found shot, are now safe at home

One dog wore a GPS tracker, which was removed from the dog's collar and found on the side of the road.

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BREEZY POINT — Good Samaritans returned two dogs, stolen and wounded by shotgun pellets, to their owner in Breezy Point.

A 28-year-old was arrested Thursday, April 7, in Pine River in connection with the theft of the pets. Caleb Michael Swanson faces two felonies: one count of theft-indifferent to owner’s rights and one count of theft-to find and appropriate lost property.

Breezy Point Police Chief Brian Sandell said the department received a report at 5:27 p.m. April 5 of two dogs missing from a home in Breezy Point.

Both dogs were recovered days later with what appeared to be pellets from a shotgun blast in their rear hip areas, Sandell said. The suspect did not have a firearm and there were no shell casings in his truck, according to police.

“We seized the truck, did a search and obtained one of the dog's collars and a bunch of hair consistent with the dogs that were picked up,” Sandell said.

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Sandell said they are still working on the case and will continue to look into the shooting.

“The dogs were recovered through great teamwork with our department, surrounding departments and the community,” Sandell said.

According to the charging documents, at approximately 2:30 p.m. the dogs’ owner noticed an alert on a phone notifying them a GPS tracker affixed to one of the dog's collars was outside of their property.

The tracking history showed both dogs left the yard sometime earlier in the afternoon and walked west to Channel Road and north toward Lake Ossawinnamakee, before walking back south down Channel Road toward County Highway 11.

The owner stated at 2:17 p.m., the GPS tracker showed the dogs began moving west on the highway at about 55 mph, indicating the dogs were likely inside a vehicle.

At 2:48 p.m., the owner remotely activated an audible alarm on the GPS tracking device and noted shortly afterward, the tracking signal stopped moving and remained stationary near the intersection of County Highway 11 and Highway 371.

The owner traveled to that location and recovered the tracking device on the shoulder of the roadway. There were no tracks indicating a vehicle stopped and the tracker was removed from the collar. It appeared the tracker was thrown from the vehicle. This led the owner to believe the dogs were stolen, so they called the police and posted information about the theft on Facebook.

That night, officers received a phone call from a witness, who stated he observed the dogs taken earlier in the day.

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The witness stated at 2:17 p.m. April 7, he was driving west on County Highway 11 and came upon a red Ford F-150 stopped in the lane of traffic on the highway near Channel Lane in Breezy Point. He witnessed a tall, heavyset man wearing dark clothing exit the driver's side of the vehicle and place two shorthair dogs, one brown and one white, into the cab of the truck, before continuing west and turning into Pelican Square gas station.

The witness wrote the plate number down and officers verified it with video obtained from the gas station showing Swanson and the dogs in the vehicle at 2:28 p.m. April 5.

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“The owner then called in and reported they'd received a tip from someone they knew that that truck was in the Pine River area ... and that's when our officer went up and located the truck and the suspect,” Sandell said.

Officers found Swanson in Pine River and he admitted to taking the dogs and leaving them near Crosby. Staff at the board and lodge where Swanson was staying told officers he moved in on April 5 and was covered in dog hair.

“The suspect denied the theft but did not make any attempt to contact anybody, removed both dog's collars, threw the tracking device out, did not call law enforcement, did not try to contact the owners to inform them that they had the dogs,” Sandell said. “So then what happened was (the) suspect went to a property over by Crosby … to let the dogs out to the bathroom, so he said. He let them out of the truck and they ran off.”

The next day, Lady, a 4-year-old brown vizsla, was on Highway 6 in Crow Wing County and was returned to the owners by the person who found her. Beamer, a 1-year-old white Labrador retriever, was recovered Thursday near a business on Highway 6 and Larson Road.

The Breezy Point Police Department was assisted by the Pine River Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Cass County Sheriff's Office.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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