Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 23, 2002

Police dog stops intruder in Winsted residence

By Ryan Gueningsman

A burglar alarm and a police dog prevented a Winsted residence from being robbed Tuesday night.

At 6:50 p.m., a security alarm at a home on McLeod Avenue West was set off. The alarm company, Burns Security of Watertown, notified the McLeod County Sheriff's Department.

Part-time Winsted police officer Aaron Wiemiller, who is also a McLeod County deputy, was sent to the home to try to locate the suspect.

Wiemiller, his police dog Tyson, along with two other officers found  34-year-old Jeffrey Thomas Traxler of Hutchinson in the basement of the home.

"At the time of his (Traxler's) arrest, he was intoxicated ­ it (Traxler's blood alcohol level) was well over the legal limit," said Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich.

It appeared that Traxler entered the home through either a front or rear garage door.

Traxler has been in trouble with the law in the past. Court documents show that he was charged with fourth degree burglary in February of 1988, in which he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of trespassing, paid a total of $430 in fines, and spent 10 days in jail.

In the early '90s, Traxler was also charged with a felony for arson in the second degree for setting fire to a state trooper's patrol car causing more than $15,000 in damage.

He served jail time for that, had to pay restitution, and avoid alcohol.

As of Friday, Traxler was in a detox center awaiting a court date. He has been charged with one count of second degree burglary. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment and/or a $20,000 fine.

Ironically, Traxler has an apparent association with a security business in Hutchinson. Court documents list Traxler's residence at the same address as Maximum Security.

For Wiemiller and the other officers, having Tyson on site not only saved a lot of looking around ­ he was crucial to their safety.

"Part of the thing with getting the dog and sending him in is officer safety," Henrich said. "You don't want to use the dog as a scapegoat, but it is a tool."

"We knew the suspect was trying to elude us, and we had no idea if he was armed," Henrich added.

Wiemiller has had Tyson as a partner for about three-and-a-half years.

"He played an important role," Wiemiller said. "Dogs are used to check areas that pose a threat to officers, and to make the situation more safe."

He also noted that the police dogs are not only used in catching criminals, but also to assist in finding missing children and others in need.

"It's a great asset to have," he said. "Dogs are faster at searches than officers are."

For this particular case, Henrich feels that "it's just a random type burglary."

The homeowner was not at home at the time this happened, nothing was stolen, and no damage was done to the residence.

"More and more houses are becoming equipped with security systems. Without a doubt, they play an important part, but they are only as good as the people running them, Henrich said.

"There are false alarms, but we respond to each one as if it's the real thing. Some cities charge for responding to false alarms, and that is something the department is considering as well."

"Is there a need for it (people having security systems) in our community? Without a doubt," Henrich said. "The last two alarms that were real ­ one was in the middle of the day, and one was towards the evening. So, sometimes it happens when people are at work and aren't around."

As for this situation, Henrich is glad things worked out as well as they did.

"I'm very proud of how things turned out this time," Henrich said. "They did a good job."

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