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Police Praise Dogs Injured During Manhunt

March 17, 2002

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Police Praise Dogs Injured During Manhunt

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by Victor Thompson, Florida Today

MEBOURNE - Police have identified a bank robbery suspect killed Wednesday when he lunged at an officer with a knife and placed the SWAT team member who shot him to death on paid leave.

Melbourne Police Cmdr. Ron Bell said Thursday that Percival George Wilson Jr., 34, was shot twice by SWAT team officer Charles Wiebe about 3:20 p.m., four hours after the bank on Gateway Drive was robbed.

"The suspect lunged at Officer Wiebe with a knife, and the officer shot him," Bell said. "We have recovered the money, two knives and a flare-type gun used in the robbery."

Wiebe, a 21-year veteran of the department and longtime SWAT team member, was placed on paid administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates, Bell said. The procedure is customary in police-related shootings.

Officers said two police dogs, injured during the standoff with Wilson, are fine. One was cut on the nose, the other under an eye after they were sent into the woods to apprehend Wilson. Both dogs appeared before reporters on Thursday at police headquarters, much to their masters' relief.

"I spend about as much time with this dog as I do with my family," said Officer Howard Knauf, one of the dog's handlers. "I think that our dogs saved our lives."

Police recovered more than $1,000 from a wooded area the suspect ran to after the robbery. Officers are still investigating whether Wilson was involved in similar bank robberies in Palm Bay, but said Melbourne police had issued Wilson a traffic citation a few weeks earlier.

In 1991, Wilson was sentenced to three years in prison on a charge of attempted robbery without a firearm from a 1990 case, according to Brevard County court records. His record also shows a series of traffic charges.

A witness gave Melbourne police a picture showing Wilson riding a bicycle near Gateway Drive before the robbery, Bell said. The picture shows a man wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt, blue pants and a hat concealing his face.

"The witness thought it odd that someone would be riding a bike with those clothes and took a picture," Bell said.

The dogs, Marco and Roscoe, were given their share of credit. The dogs, handled by officers Scott Lindsley and Knauf, first confronted the suspect.

"Marco had located (Wilson) 15 yards from the location where we were," said Lindsley. "He went into the brush and then I heard what sounded like two shots."

Lindsley said Marco bit Wilson several times before coming out of the wooded area, covered in blood.

"I ran to him, grabbed him, wiped the blood off of him," Lindsley said.

As Marco went in, Knauf said he ordered his dog, Roscoe, to apprehend Wilson as he fled further into the woods. Both Knauf and Lindsley said they thought their dogs had been shot.

Roscoe "was covered in blood when he came out. I thought he was dead," Knauf said. "It's hard to talk about what I felt."

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