Former Potlotek resident in custody after evading authorities

BRIDGEWATER: A former resident of Potlotek First Nation eluded authorities for six days after a police officer was stabbed.

Law enforcement officials had been hunting for Tobias Charles Doucette ever since July 20, when a 13-year-veteran Bridgewater Police Service officer, Sgt. Matt Bennett, was stabbed in the neck, allegedly by Doucette, while the policeman was investigating a domestic dispute.

According to radio communications obtained by The Reporter’s sister paper LighthouseNOW, Bennett 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.

Doucette, whom police identified as the suspect, ran away and avoided detection.

After the July 20 stabbing of Bennett, public pleas went out for Doucette to turn himself, including from his home community of Potlotek.

“Please surrender yourself, nothing’s going to happen to you,” Chief Wilbert Marshall told CTV News. “I promise that. I’ll be here if I have to.

“We just want him to come home safely and surrender himself. If he wants to call me or call anyone from home, we’re more than willing to come down and see him if we have to.”

Noting that the entire community was concerned for Doucette’s safety, the chief said he spoke daily with Doucette’s father, and at the time said he was working with the RCMP to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution.

“We’re working with the RCMP now,” Marshall noted. “My cousin here, he’s an RCMP [officer] and he’s Tobias’ cousin also. They actually reached out to us. A lot of things are happening behind the scenes.”

Doucette remained at large while officers from the Bridgewater Police Service, neighbouring Lunenburg district RCMP, specialized units and the Department of National Defence, tried to track him down.

Finally, in the early hours of July 26, Doucette was in custody.

Events came to a head July 25, after a family in Hebbville called 911 at around 9 p.m., as they watched a man in a half-ton plow truck attempting to ram the gates from inside Gerhardt Fleet Tech Service on Highway 3. According to a witness, the man got out of the truck, aware people were watching him and seemingly unable to plow through the gate. He started walking and eventually disappeared from view.

Approximately four hours later, RCMP Nova Scotia confirmed that Doucette had been taken into custody without incident. The RCMP National ERT (Early Response Team), Lunenburg District RCMP and Halifax Regional Police Service Dog Team were already in the area conducting searches when the 911 call came in.

“Police was on scene for the attempted vehicle theft within seven minutes of the call. The Police Dog Service quickly acquired a track while dozens of patrol officers were called into the area to provide support with containment. Within the hour, RCMP and Bridgewater Police Service had 18 marked police vehicles in the area between Highway #3 Hebbville and the Conquerall Mills Road. The area was contained and all traffic stopped from entering the area,” reads the RCMP media release.

RCMP National ERT were said to be on the track and had requested the Nova Scotia RCMP ERT, as well as RCMP Air Services from Moncton, N.B. At about 12:30 a.m., RCMP Air Services spotted a heat signature in the same area as the ERT track. Twenty minutes later, ERT made contact with the suspect, “and he was arrested without incident.”

“Bridgewater Police Service and RCMP are investigating charges of attempt murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, assault, injuring a law enforcement animal, possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose [two charges], mischief under $5,000 as well as theft of a motor vehicle,” according to the RCMP release.

Bennett is now said to be recovering from what police described as successful” surgery in Halifax. The victim of the domestic assault sustained injuries, which police considered minor, was treated and released from hospital. While Fergus, the police dog, who was treated at a veterinarian clinic in Wileville, is also said to be recovering.

Doucette was transported to the Cookville RCMP cell block and attended to by EHS. In its July 26 news release, the RCMP added he was remanded into custody and will appear in Bridgewater Provincial Court “at a date yet to be determined.”