2020-07-29

False alarms near Fancy Lake, Bridgewater as police continue search for suspect

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>FACEBOOK/BRIDGEWATER POLICE SERVICE</p><p>Sgt. Matt Bennett, pictured during an event in 2018 when he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.</p>
  • <p>SOURCE: RCMP NOVA SCOTIA</p><p>The search area RCMP identified on July 21 at about 7:20 p.m.</p>
  • <p>This emergency alert went out to Lunenburg County residents on July 21.</p>
  • <p>SOURCE: BRIDGEWATER POLICE SERVICE</p><p>Bridgewater resident, Tobias Charles Doucette, 31, at-large on charges of assault, attempted murder.</p>

There was some temporary anxiety for residents around Fancy Lake and on Bridgewater's east side the night of July 22 as law enforcement officers followed-up on further alleged sightings of the 31-year old man at-large on charges of domestic assault and attempted murder of a cop.

Tobias Charles Doucette of Bridgewater is also facing allegations of stabbing a police dog.

The search for Doucette has gone on more than 60 hours.

Acting on recent tips, officers converged along locations around the Lunenburg County lake bordering Conquerall Mills and Hebbville, when it was thought the suspect exited the lake and went into the woods, according to new radio communications obtained by LighthouseNOW.

The dragnet extended around Lakeview Circle, Botany Lane, and other spots as officers and police dog support worked to box-in the person, but the search was called off when it was determined the person was a woman making multiple dives into the water to find lost glasses.

Later, authorities worked to track a report of a darkly-dressed suspicious person in a backyard in the town's Porter Crescent neighbourhood. The lead took police to the northeastern end of Bridgewater; across Aberdeen Road, down to LaHave Street, before search avenues were exhausted with no sign of Doucette.

Officers from the Bridgewater Police Service, Lunenburg district RCMP and other RCMP jurisdictions across the province, as well as personnel from Canada's Department of National Defence continue the hunt for the man. They've established boundary and patrol areas which include Conquerall Road, Highway 331, Crousetown Road, and Conquerall Mills Road.

RCMP announced July 21 some residents in the southwest of Bridgewater were temporarily evacuated as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Bridgewater Police Service officer, Sgt. Matt Bennett, who was knifed in the neck while investigating a domestic dispute July 20, is recovering in hospital after undergoing what police said was a successful surgery in Halifax. Officials weren't specific about his condition, except to say he is stable. No further updates concerning his condition are being provided publicly.

Bennett, a 13-year member of the force, was stabbed at a High Street hotel after the municipal police department was summoned to the west side address at 11 p.m. to deal with a disturbance between a man and woman. The incident was called-in from the hotel's front desk, which reported a woman with a bloody nose was sitting in the lobby.

Bennett sustained the injury inside the hotel, and managed enough energy to radio for an ambulance and communicate a warning to officers about a man with a knife on the loose. He also called for more officers and a police dog to respond. Two other Bridgewater Police Service officers, Cst. Will Creamer and Cst. Jamie Dearing, were on scene with Bennett. They were not hurt.

The initial report to authorities from dispatch indicated it didn't appear there were any weapons involved in the domestic dispute, according to radio communications obtained by LighthouseNOW.

Doucette, whom police identified as the suspect, ran away and avoided detection. He is charged with assaulting his common-law spouse and trying to kill Bennett. He's Indigenous, stands 6'2", 220 lbs, with brown hair and green eyes. He was last seen wearing black shorts but wasn't wearing shoes nor a shirt.

The victim of the domestic assault sustained injuries which police considered minor. She was treated and released from hospital. Police said she is no longer at risk and is in a safe place.

Multiple officers, in addition to specialized units, initially fanned out around the the southwest end of town to find Doucette. Places subject to a search were the former Dufferin Street golf course, along with backyards off Pine Street, Jubilee Road, Cornwallis Street and Scotia Street.

Sheds, sports field dugouts and canteen buildings were checked, as were Doucette's cell phone and bank information. Taxi services were contacted to see if he was picked up.

Police issued a news release at about 4 a.m., July 21, and later an emergency alert was sent warning local residents of what was transpiring. Some businesses either delayed opening or closed for the day.

With law enforcement continuing its focus on the southwestern end of town, police got a break in the case near the lunch-hour on July 21, when it was told a body was in the LaHave River, close to the east side, according to radio communications.

The person managed to swim to the west side, get to land near Conquerall Bank, and run into the woods across Highway 331. Police were told Doucette is a survivalist and no stranger to extended excursions in the bush.

At some point during the search, as it extended westerly from Conquerall Bank, Fergus, a seven-year-old German shepherd RCMP police dog was stabbed in the upper shoulder with a stick as he engaged the suspect. He was rushed by police to a Wileville veterinarian clinic for treatment. Fergus's handler wasn't injured.

Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, a spokeswoman for the province's RCMP, couldn't provide a specific condition for Fergus, except to say he's "stable but being closely monitored."

Over the course of several hours, aided by air and land support, law enforcement slogged a track taking them well into the woods bordering communities including Conquerall Bank, Conquerall Mills and Hebbville. Officers continued vehicle patrols in the same area, as the search continues July 23.

RCMP assumed command of the search given the last known position of the suspect was in its jurisdiction.

Anyone that witnesses suspicious persons or activities on properties are asked to avoid contact and immediately call police.

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