K9 officer stabbed while tracking strangling suspect

- A Lakeland PD K9 officer is recovering after he was stabbed during an arrest. 

It all began when officers with the Lakeland Police Department went to the location of a reported aggravated assault at the Crestwood Hotel on Lakeland Park Drive at 8:40 p.m. Friday. 

When they got there, they talked to a woman who said she was strangled with a dog leash by 42-year-old Reuben Smith, of Plant City. Smith had already left, headed toward Hillsborough County, and armed with a knife.

The woman said Smith asked her if she knew what it was like to be strangled. That's when she ran to the bathroom, but Smith forced his way in. The victim said Smith then forced his way onto her and wrapped a leash around her neck. She said he began choking her and she lost consciousness, falling to the floor.

The victim said when she woke up, Smith took her to the bed and again wrapped a leash around her neck, but this time she was able to escape and ran out of the hotel room. That's when Smith left the scene in a white Buick Regal, police said.

Later, early Saturday morning, Smith apparently returned to Lakeland and was seen driving on George Jenkins Boulevard. When he spotted officers, he sped away and they pursued. 

During the pursuit, police said Smith intentionally drove off the roadway on Swindell Road at the I-4 overpass and rammed the barrier fence attempting to drive on to the interstate, but disabled his vehicle instead. Smith got out of the car and ran, and officers with K9s followed into a wooded area. 

Canine Officer Jeremy Williams and his K9 partner, Hyde responded to the area and began tracking Smith.  Officer Williams briefly lost site of Hyde in the wooded area and tried to call him back, but Hyde did not return. Moments later, Officer Williams found Smith holding Hyde down. Hyde had been stabbed twice, police said, once in the left front leg and once in the left side chest. Both injuries required two staples each, but appeared to be non-life threatening. 

K-9 Hyde was released after treatment.

Meanwhile, officers said Smith continued to resist as he was placed into custody. Smith faces multiple charges, including aggravated assault, fleeing or attempting to elude, aggravate assault with deadly weapon without intent to kill, injuring/killing a police dog, and resisting an officer with violence.

Smith was taken to the Polk County Jail.

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