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Boy taken by father found by K-9 team

An 11-month-old boy abducted by his father was found safe Tuesday afternoon.

The boy’s father was arrested after a tense, four-hour search of a Key Peninsula neighborhood west of Purdy.

The father, identified as Justin M. Smith, 23, was arrested by Pierce County sheriff’s deputies in the woods off Sandy Point East, not far from the Lake Holiday subdivision clubhouse, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

A short time earlier, the boy was found in a wheelbarrow where Smith had left him, Troyer said. The boy appeared uninjured but was taken to a local hospital for a medical evaluation, he said.

A Puyallup police K-9 team and two Pierce County SWAT team members located Smith near where he abandoned his sport utility vehicle. Troyer said Smith is a U.S. Marine corporal stationed at Fort Lewis.

After his arrest, Smith was treated for minor dog bites in a Medic One ambulance before being taken to the Pierce County Jail.

Troyer said there were initial fears that Smith, who had fled his home after choking his wife, might attempt “suicide by police.” Inside the wheelbarrow with the boy they found Smith’s wallet and cell phone, he said.

Troyer said the fact that Smith had weapons and training in them also was a major concern.

The K-9 team tracked Smith to the woods off the 13800 block of Sandy Point East where he was surrounded by SWAT team members and surrendered, Troyer said.

Local schools were locked down while deputies searched for Smith, who was reportedly armed with a rifle and a handgun. The lockdown ended with Smith’s capture.

The situation began just before 10:20 a.m. in the heavily wooded subdivision at the north end of 150th Avenue KPN off state Route 302, according to Detective Sgt. Jerry Bates with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Smith reportedly choked his wife, then grabbed their son, he said.

Pierce County deputies responded to Smith’s house in the 14200 block of Meadowlark Drive and found Smith in his blue Hummer with his son, Troyer said. Smith rammed a sheriff’s vehicle and fled, he said.

Troyer said Smith’s SUV was found abandoned less than a mile away, at Holiday Drive and Sandy Point West, after it apparently hit a pole.

Officers from several police agencies, including hostage negotiators, descended on the neighborhood. The subdivision’s only entrance was manned by deputies, and residents were questioned before they were allowed inside. Cars were searched as they left.

The boy was located minutes before 2 p.m.; Smith was taken into custody roughly 20 minutes later.

According to court records, Smith has a history of domestic violence. His wife petitioned for and received a temporary protection order against him in August 2009.

In her petition, she accused Smith of “taking our son out of the house following an argument and leaving the home with his firearm to an undisclosed location.”

“Justin Smith has a history of driving angry and dangerously during domestic incidents and also has a history of suicide (attempts),” the woman said in her petition.

Smith was required by the Marine Corps to take anger-management classes after he tried to kidnap his wife in August 2008, according to the petition.

It appears from court records that Smith’s wife was granted the temporary order in August, but that it expired two weeks later when she failed to appear for a hearing to extend it.

Staff writer Adam Lynn contributed to this report.

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