Dog bites Lewiston officer

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LEWISTON – A police officer was bitten by a pit bull Tuesday night while investigating a report that a man was beating his pregnant girlfriend inside a Main Street apartment.

Officer Derrick St. Laurent was bitten in the buttocks while trying to arrest 22-year-old Marc Jonitis of 427 Main St. on an assault charge, police said.

Several officers swarmed on that building at about 7:45 p.m. after St. Laurent called for backup while struggling with both the suspect and the dog.

Police said Jonitis continued to fight with several officers as they tried to get him under control. St. Laurent was able to free himself from the jaws of the dog without using chemical spray or other forms of force.

“He used great restraint,” said police Lt. James Minkowsky. “This could have turned into something much worse.”

While Jonitis was being subdued, his girlfriend and a young child were in the apartment, police said. Neither of them was seriously hurt.

After Jonitis was handcuffed and taken to jail, he was charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a child, refusing to submit to arrest and violating probation stemming from a previous charge of domestic assault.

At the scene, several neighbors said they heard the sounds of punches being delivered from the apartment on the first floor. They then heard the sounds of a woman screaming. At least two of the neighbors called police.

St. Laurent arrived and was attacked by the dog as he tried to approach Jonitis, police said. The bite did not break the skin and the officer did not require hospital treatment.

Jonitis was taken to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center to be examined for cuts before he was moved to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

Jonitis has a criminal history of assaults, according to court records. Because of the alleged probation violation, he was being held without bail Tuesday night.

The pit bull that bit St. Laurent was allowed to remain with Jonitis’ girlfriend Tuesday night, although Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout was expected to examine the animal on Wednesday.

Minkowsky praised St. Laurent for handling the attacking dog without force despite the chaos around him. To use a weapon on the animal, the lieutenant said, might have endangered the woman and child in the apartment as well as others in the large building.

“It’s a very tough call for the officer to make,” Minkowsky said.

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