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Suspect sprays deputies with bear repellent, stabs police dog

The service canine was taken to a veterinarian for treatment of non-life-threatening cuts.
Credit: San Diego Sheriff's Dept.

SAN DIEGO — A man seen wandering around and mumbling to himself in a rural eastern San Diego County neighborhood today sprayed deputies with bear repellent when they approached to check on him, then stabbed a service dog before being arrested, sheriff's officials said.

Patrol personnel were sent to the 15000 block of Skyline Truck Trail in Jamul shortly after 10 a.m. to determine what the seemingly confused or agitated man, later identified as 29-year-old Richard Lechuga of San Diego, was doing there, according to sheriff's Lt. Joel Stranger.

When the deputies arrived, Lechuga was sitting in a parked vehicle, the lieutenant said. As the personnel walked up to talk to him, he doused three of them with bear spray through an open window and brandished a knife and what appeared to be a handgun, Stranger alleged.

Credit: San Diego Sheriff's Dept.

The deputies then sicced a service dog on the suspect, who allegedly responded by stabbing the animal on the head and face. At that point, the sheriff's personnel used beanbag-shotgun rounds, pepper balls and an electric stun gun to subdue Lechuga, enabling them to take him into custody.

The deputies who had been exposed to the bear repellent were treated at the scene by medics. The service canine was taken to a veterinarian for treatment of non-life-threatening cuts.

Lechuga was arrested on suspicion of assaulting peace officers and a police dog, and resisting arrest. Prior to being booked into county jail, he was transported to a hospital for treatment of injuries he sustained during his arrest. Details on the nature and severity of that trauma were not released.

"The (suspect's) handgun was later determined to be a pellet gun," the lieutenant said.