DVM, staff thwart robbery

DVM, staff thwart robbery

Police apprehend fleeing suspect; clinic resumes surgeries
Nov 01, 2008

ALLIANCE, OHIO — A veterinarian and his staff fought off a man who claimed to have a bomb when he entered the West Side Animal Hospital in Alliance.

The intruder fled into a wooded area, where police apprehended him. He faces multiple charges.

The Oct. 9 ordeal lasted only about 15 minutes but seemed an eternity to Dr. Doug Cunningham and his staff.

It started shortly after the clinic opened.

The first patient, a rescued Doberman pup, was on the table prepped and anesthetized, ready to be spayed and have a botched tail-docking repaired.

Cunningham was about to put on his operating gloves when one of his receptionists came back to say a man was demanding employees' purses and the keys to the doctor's car.

"I thought it was a joke at first," Cunningham recalls. "But he was right on her heels."

The man held a bag he said contained a bomb, but never showed the bag's contents.

Cunningham led the intruder toward his business office, but managed to lock him out and call 9-1-1.

Meanwhile, one of the receptionists ran to a next-door insurance office and called police.

The intruder kicked and pounded on Cunningham's office door, breaking through the door with his foot and hand, but Cunningham was able to fend him off, sustaining cuts to his hands during the scuffle.

Cunningham says the man repeatedly threatened him and his employees, even restraining a receptionist at one point.

Eventually, he says he convinced the intruder that the keys were under the car's front seat and, when the man went outside for them, Cunningham locked him out of the building.

Meanwhile, the second receptionist fled to the insurance office, and a technician escaped through a back door.

When the suspect realized he couldn't get back inside, he ran into a wooded area, where police found him.

Charles M. Hammond, 39, of Smith Township, already on house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor, was charged with seven felonies, including aggravated robbery, disrupting public service, abduction and inducing panic. He also was charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

The bag contained only some personal items but no explosive, according to Alliance police.

Cunningham says support from his clients was overwhelming, with one man even bringing in cans of pepper spray for the staff. The clinic didn't close after the incident.

"We did the rest of the surgeries scheduled," Cunningham says. "The first surgery (on the Doberman pup) was a little shaky. Initially, there is that fear. Then, at least for me, it turned into anger that somebody would walk in here and put us in harm's way.

"We did nothing to aggravate him. He didn't know us, and we didn't know him. We were just an easy target for him."