An Anchorage man was arrested Saturday after he temporarily eluded police on the Glenn Highway, driving his car at speeds above 100 miles per hour, according to the Alaska State Troopers.
The troopers said they caught Michael Elam just off the Parks Highway, near the Harley-Davidson shop between Palmer and Wasilla, around 2 p.m. That was after he crashed his Volkswagen Jetta into a Toyota Prius driven by Patricia Kennedy, 66, of Wasilla.
Kennedy sustained minor injuries, the troopers said.
An Anchorage police officer had initially tried to stop Elam, 27, after seeing him driving recklessly on the highway, said Anchorage police dispatcher Sharon Brown.
She said the Anchorage officer broke off pursuit to avoid endangering other drivers.
The troopers received multiple 911 calls about the ensuing accident, and an off-duty officer, Daron Cooper, happened to be in the area with his police dog, Blazer, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois.
The pair was coming from a quarterly training session, according to troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen, and Blazer had been certified in tracking one day earlier, she said.
When Blazer and Cooper arrived at the accident, witnesses were describing how Elam, a female passenger, and another dog -- a Lab mix -- had run into the woods nearby. As that was happening, Ipsen said, the trio emerged, and Elam took off, running up an embankment to the Parks Highway and across two lanes of traffic.
Cooper followed, keeping his dog alongside him until they'd made it across the second lane of traffic. Then, Cooper sent Blazer ahead.
"The guy looked back, saw the dog in pursuit, tripped and fell," Ipsen said. "The dog was on him immediately afterwards."
Blazer didn't attack -- Ipsen said the dog stood next to Elam and barked.
"It's very intimidating," said Ipsen. "You don't want to mess with that."
Elam was arrested for eluding officers, leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence, assault, driving with his license revoked, and failure to report a crash.
Ipsen said that a second officer trained in recognizing signs of drug use suspected that Elam had been using heroine and methamphetamine; troopers are now waiting for the results of a drug test.
It was unclear if Elam's passenger also ran away when spotted by officers, but Ipsen said that she was "detained easily," though she wasn't charged with a crime. The Lab mix was taken to the pound.
Elam has previous convictions for assault, theft, disorderly conduct, and driving without a license.
Blazer hails from Holland, a hotbed of police dog training, and he attended, with Cooper, the troopers' dog training academy in Fairbanks. Blazer was previously certified in drug detection, Ipsen said -- though he does not like the smell of drugs.
"My wife said that's because drugs are bad," Cooper said in an interview with the troopers' in-house publication, Trooper Times. "But Blazer got the hang of it after a while, and certified with no problems in the end."
Reach Nathaniel Herz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4311.
By NATHANIEL HERZ