On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 05-12-2806.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2008
Before Judges Parker and Yannotti.
Defendant Frederick Scott was tried to a jury and found guilty of possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d, obstructing the administration of the law, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1; resisting arrest by flight, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(3); and injuring a dog used for law enforcement, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3.1, as charged in Indictment No. 05-12-2806. Defendant was sentenced on September 8, 2006 to an aggregate term of four and one-half years of incarceration.*fn1 He appeals from his conviction. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
At defendant's trial, the State presented evidence that in October 2005, the Galloway Township Police Department (GTPD) had received complaints of burglaries and suspicious activities in the area of the Maddox Run Club II apartment complex. Carol Maher (Maher) testified that, in the early morning hours of October 23, 2005, she observed what she said was a "strange person" walking behind her townhouse in Building 21 of the Maddox Run complex. According to Maher, the individual was "a tall, thin person dressed in dark clothing, with a dark hood." She assumed that the individual was a male. He was walking briskly through her back yard. Maher phoned the police and reported what she had seen.
Officer Hiram Melendez (Melendez) of the GTPD testified that he was assigned to the GTPD's canine unit for patrol assignment. He worked with a German Shepherd named Chase. Melendez said that, at approximately 2:48 a.m. on October 23, 2005, he was told to report to the Maddox Run complex. He said that the GTPD had received a call from Bernie Spaulding, who reported that he observed a suspicious looking male in the area, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark clothing. Melendez and Patrolman William Kline (Kline) responded quickly to the scene. They parked at the club house in a marked patrol car. They exited the car and started walking around the apartment complex. Melendez had Chase on a leash.
Melendez said that they were in a small patch of woods between Buildings 29 and 34. Melendez put Chase in a "lay down position." They were directly behind the residence of the caller. Melendez said that they saw a motion light come on. Melendez observed defendant "walking from around the building."
Defendant walked to within seven to ten feet from where Melendez and Kline were standing. Melendez illuminated his flashlight and called out, "Galloway Township Police." Defendant did not respond verbally, but he pulled out a knife and kept walking towards Melendez. Melendez reached for his weapon. Defendant looked at Melendez, spun around, and started to run away.
Melendez gave defendant the GTPD's "standard canine announcement." He said, "police, you're under arrest. Stop or I will release my police dog, who will bite you." Defendant continued to run. Melendez and Chase ran after defendant. Melendez said that defendant was far ahead of him but still within sight.
Melendez unleashed Chase. The dog caught up with defendant and grabbed defendant's sweatshirt in his mouth. Defendant kicked and punched the dog. Melendez said that it appeared that defendant was punching Chase on top of the dog's head. Melendez saw the dog "come off" of defendant, and he heard the dog cry out loudly. The dog wound up lying almost on his side. Defendant started to flee again.
Melendez told Chase to get up and he directed him towards defendant. The dog complied. He grabbed defendant by the calf. Defendant began to kick the dog. Melendez told defendant to stop resisting. Defendant hit Melendez in the chest and they both wound up on the ground with the dog. At that point, defendant gave up. Melendez and Kline flipped defendant over, and Kline found the knife underneath defendant's body. Defendant was placed into handcuffs and other officers arrived on the scene. Defendant was taken to a hospital, where he was examined.
Melendez checked the dog and observed that the dog's left front paw was bleeding. Melendez drove Chase to an animal hospital, where he was seen by a technician. The technician did not find a cut under the dog's hair. Chase was out of work for several days. During that time, Melendez noticed that the dog "wasn't himself."
Melendez also testified that, several days later, Chase was limping during a law enforcement demonstration at the local high school. Melendez checked the dog's left front paw and found that it was bleeding from ...