Despite alleged Deltona Wal-Mart shoplifter digging key into scalp of Sheriff's k9 in nearby creek, suspect arrested

Photos for HeadlineSurfer® /
Thomas D. Rice, 46, was arrested by a Volusia County Sheriff's k9 unit after allegedly shoplifting a bunch of items from the Wal-Mart on Howland Boulevard in Deltona, Florida, on Monday night. Shown in the inset is k9 Axe, the same German shepherd shown in this screen shot taken from an unrelated training exercise video last Spring, which is posted below.
 

DELTONA, Fla. -- An alleged Wal-Mart shoplifter who threatened a loss prevention officer with a knife Monday night, after he fled the store, 101 Howland Blvd., in an SUV, crashed it and then jumped into a creek in an unsuccessful attempt to elude a Sheriff’s K9, which took him down.

Thomas D. Rice, 46, who bonded out of jail earlier today, was apprehended shortly after 7 p.m. Monday after he wrecked on the 600 block of State Road 415, minutes after the confrontation at Wal-Mart.

At the Wal-Mart, the loss prevention officer told deputies he witnessed Rice picking random items off the shelf before leaving the store without making any attempt to pay.

Here is a synopsis of what occurred as described by Sheriff's spookesman Andrew Gant in an email to Headline Surfer®: When the officer confronted Rice just outside the door, he said Rice pulled a knife and warned: “Get back or I’ll stab you.” Rice got in his vehicle and started to drive away. As he did, the Wal-Mart officer reached inside the vehicle, grabbed one of the stolen items – a baseball bat – and used it to hit the driver’s side door of Rice's Toyota Highlander as he sped off.

Here is a synopsis of what occurred as described by Sheriff's spookesman Andrew Gant in an email to Headline Surfer®: When the officer confronted Rice just outside the door, he said Rice pulled a knife and warned: “Get back or I’ll stab you.” Rice got in his vehicle and started to drive away. As he did, the Wal-Mart officer reached inside the vehicle, grabbed one of the stolen items – a baseball bat – and used it to hit the driver’s side door of Rice's Toyota Highlander as he sped off.

Gant said a  deputy dispatched to the call spotted the vehicle fleeing on Staye Road 415.

The deputy turned around to attempt a traffic stop, and Rice tried to get away by turning down a dirt road. When two deputies followed, they found Rice’s SUV had crashed into a dirt berm as he was running off.

After several warnings, K9 deputy Kyle Walter released his k9 partner, Axe to run after him. Rice sprinted into some woods and jumped into a creek full of water, trying to cross to the other side. Before he could get there, the powerful German shepherd clamped his jaws on one of Rice's legs.

It was at this point, the alleged shoplifter began digging an unknown object into Axe’s head with his hand. 

The deputy wasn’t immediately able to tell what the object was – or if it was a knife – as Rice refused commands to drop it. Then Rice revealed he was using a set of keys to dig into the top of Axe’s head. 

Deputy Walter moved in to stop Rice from hurting Axe. Rice continued to struggle, but he dropped the keys and was taken into custody without furether incident.

The dog was bleeding from an abrasion to the top of his head and was taken to DeLand Animal Hospital for treatment.

Axe, on the crime-fighting beat since December 2013, suffered a small abrasion to his scalp, but will be not taking any leave absence from his duties, Gant later told Headline Surfer® in an email update.

VCSO k9 team of Deputy Kyle Walter & German shepherd, Axe / Headline Surfer®Volusia County Sheriff's Office Deputy Kyle Walter is shown with his k9 partner, Axe, a German shepherd. The two who have been a crime-fighting team since December 2013. There are 20 such k9 units in the VCSO.

Here is a synopsis of what occurred once Axe pounced on the fleeing shoplifter:

After several warnings, Deputy Kyle Walter released the k9 to take down shoplifting suspect Thomas Rice, who had Rice run off into some woods and jumped into a creek full of water, trying to cross to the other side.

Before he could get there, the German shepherd clamped its powerful jaws on one of his legs and knocked him off his feet.

Rice struggled and began digging an unknown object into Axe’s head he had in his hand. The K9’s handler wasn’t immediately able to tell what the object was – concerned it might be a knife – but Rice refused commands to drop it.

Then Rice readily acknowleged he was using a set of keys to dig into the top of Axe’s head. as the dog was getting the best of him. Deputy Walter moved in to stop Rice from hurting Axe. Rice continued to struggle, but he dropped the keys and was taken into custody without further incident.

Axe was bleeding from an abrasion to the top of his head and was taken to the nearby DeLand Animal Hospital for treatment.

However, Axe's injuries were determined to be a minor abrasion and the German shepherd will not be taking any leave absence from his duties, Andrew Gant, the VSCO spokesman later told Headline Surfer® in an updated email request.

Rice was charged with armed robbery, grand theft, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, resisting arrest and an offense against a police dog by intentionally and maliciously causing bodily harm, all felonies.

Gant said Rice was taken into custody and transported to Florida Hospital Fish Memorial for treatment of his injuries, which were not life threatening.

In Rice's Toyota Higthlander, deputies recovered 41 items with price tags still attached from the Wal-Mart shoplifting incident, totaling $812.83. Among the stolen items, according to the arrest report:

-Basketball $29.96; -Football $18.47; -Mens Boxer Briefs $14.48; -Glove $19.86; -Glove $19.86; -Glove $19.86;
-HP 12a Laserjet Ink $79.97; -64GB memory card $29.88; -64 GB memory card $29.88; -DVD $5.00; -Soccer ball $7.83;
-Keyboard $99.96; -Dungareepant $23.93; -6pk shirts $13.96; -Mens Russell $9.44; -Rls Prt Crew $9.44; -Rls Prt Crew $9.44;
-Mens tank $8.86; -Glove $9.96; -Glove $9.96; -Glove $19.86; -Bat $19.97; -Bat $19.97; -Ink cartridge $51.97; 
-Utility jeans; $23.93; -Ink cartridge $51.97; -Baseball $1.77; -Baseball $2.27; -Men's wallet $12.00; -Mens pants $23.93;
-Mens pants $11.96; -Batteries $8.97.

Multimedia: 

Volusia County SO K9 Axe gets a good bite on the decoy! Good boy!

Posted by Southern Coast K9 on Thursday, April 23, 2015

Volusia County Sheriff's k9 Axe, the German shepherd, involved in Monday's takedown of a violent shoplifter, is showcased in this April 2015 training video shot by Southern Coast K9.
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.