Man who stabbed K-9 eludes police; search scaled back

Although the ground search for a suspect who eluded officers and stabbed a K9 was scaled back, investigators were still trying to plot his next move.

Everything L.C. Wesley Armstrong did on Tuesday indicated he had no intention of going quietly to jail.

When a squad car stopped his vehicle in north Minneapolis, the 26-year-old Armstrong led them on a chase into the northern suburbs, finally abandoning the car and running into the woods in Blaine, where he allegedly stabbed a police dog sent after him.

After a fruitless daylong search including a SWAT team, a helicopter and officers from 10 agencies, authorities called off the active search as darkness fell Tuesday.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes in a neighborhood near Main Street (125th Avenue NE.) and Lexington Avenue NE.

Armstrong, convicted of manslaughter last year and considered armed and dangerous, remained on the loose Tuesday night.

"To stab a dog? What the hell's wrong with you?" asked truck driver Dan Olson, who'd been forced to wait outside the restricted area since 5:30 a.m., unable to reach his destination.

Olson, who knew the area, said he wasn't surprised it was proving tough to search: "There's swamps, woods, old buildings -- he could be in somebody's garage for all we know."

Tuesday evening, Blaine Police Chief Chris Olson said the search focus would shift to investigative measures, such as maintaining contact with people who might be able to persuade Armstrong, identified in court records as a Cass County resident, to surrender.

"I'd love to say we covered every square inch out there, but we did what we could to cover the area as best we could," Chief Olson said.

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia, referring to the injured dog, said: "He harmed a member of our department, and we consider him to be extremely dangerous. We believe he will harm somebody." The K9, Shadow, was expected to survive, Garcia said.

Olson would not address reports, on a website that monitors police radio conversation, that the suspect had contacted his family and claimed to have obtained more guns from homes in the area. The reports said the suspect told family members that he will not be captured alive.

Police disabled vehicle

The pursuit began about 3:45 a.m. near 35th and Penn Avenues N. Police observed open alcohol containers in the vehicle, which then fled northbound on Interstate Hwy. 35W.

Numerous agencies joined the chase, and they were able to partially disable the vehicle using stop sticks. It finally was stopped by a state trooper using a PIT (pursuit intervention tactic) maneuver. Armstrong and a woman ran. She was caught quickly, but Armstrong fled into a wooded area. The dog sent in after him "came back out of woods and had been stabbed," Garcia said.

Police found an empty holster and ammunition in the car, leading them to believe Armstrong might have had a gun.

Police set up a perimeter bounded by Main on the south, Lexington (also County Road 17) on the east, 131st Avenue NE. on the north, and Harpers Street NE. on the west. That area includes the Preserve at Legacy Creek development.

Authorities told people there to stay inside while they searched, aided by a helicopter. By 2 p.m., Olson said police were certain the suspect was no longer there.

Garcia said the dog will survive, but it's unclear whether he will be able to continue serving as a K-9. The German shepherd has been with the department for four years.

Serious criminal record

Armstrong was convicted of second-degree manslaughter last year after getting in an argument while driving and taking his hands off the wheel to grab his pregnant passenger.

The woman and her unborn child died after the vehicle flipped and crashed into a stand of trees south of Backus, Minn. The woman's 5-year-old daughter, buckled into the back seat, survived.

Armstrong was also convicted of first-degree burglary last year for kicking in a house door and assaulting a woman. The criminal complaint stated that he entered the house and screamed obscenities as he forced the woman into his car. The woman escaped and ran back into the house. Armstrong then kicked in the door and threatened the occupants.

For these 2009 convictions, he spent a total of four months in jail.

Staff writer Jane Friedmann contributed to this report. dennis.mcgrath@startribune.com • 612-673-4293 abby.simons@startribune.com • 612-673-4921

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