When Animal Control Officer Allan Corman spotted a woman fleeing police along Eisenhower Avenue he probably could have radioed authorities and continued on his way.
But Corman, an airman-turned-teacher-turned animal control officer, pulled his van over, cut off her escape route and detained her while police caught up to them. He found out later she was arrested on larceny charges and had escaped from the back of a police cruiser.
Looking back on it, it would have been just as easy to drive by and get on the radio, but that wouldnt have been very helpful, Corman said. She ran right into my hands. I did what I felt was the right thing and stopped her from going any further until the officer could arrive. It was very instinctual.
Police were transporting Tamela Kenney, 42, to Alexandrias Adult Detention Center for shoplifting at a Walgreens Pharmacy about 1 p.m. on September 27. Kenney, also wanted on a separate assault charge, feigned illness and asked the officer to roll down the cruisers back window for some fresh air, said Jody Donaldson, department spokesman.
Kenney had slipped out of her handcuffs. When the window went down, she reached over and grabbed the door handle from the outside, Donaldson said.
She made it about 50 yards before Corman stepped in. Kenney now faces larceny, escape without force and impeding a warrant charge.
Corman, on his way to lunch that day, received a commendation from police for his actions. Hes proud of the recognition, but said the experience was more like a scene from the big screen than real life.
This played out with a matter of seconds, it was like watching a movie, Corman said. I wasnt that concerned [about self-defense] at the moment, this stuff happens so quick. You just do the right thing and hope they dont put up a fight I had come to this job with self-defense training. I was prepared.
Its not the first time or likely the last animal control officers have assisted in criminal cases, but Cormans happy to help dispel the myth of the animal control officer prowling the streets, giant net in hand, looking for runaway dogs.
Theres a stigma with being an animal control officer as a dog catcher, he said. Ive realized its more than just catching dogs. Were certified professionals. We have to go through professional training Its definitely come a long way since the good old days of being a dog catcher.
The legendary dog catcher of old is a pervasive stereotype, said Sgt. Pete Fitzgerald, also an animal control officer. Routine calls for stray animals or barking dogs often lead to bigger busts, he said.
Fitzgerald should know. Hes uncovered a meth lab after responding to a noise complaint and been involved in drug and illegal gun raids while on duty in North Carolina before coming to Alexandria.
Things have changed in the last 30 years. Animal control has really come a long way from the years of the dog catcher, he said. We come across domestic violence, child abuse, drugs, alcohol. We find ourselves wearing a lot of different hats. Usually, [situations involving animals] is what tips off a lot of people and spins off to other things, like drugs, prostitution or illegal gambling.
While its nice to be in the limelight, apprehending criminals isnt the reason Corman got into animal control. The 41-year-old became a teacher after mustering out of the Air Force in the early 1990s. A few years in the classroom and Corman realized the chalkboard and textbooks werent for him.
Originally planning on a career as a police officer, Corman hesitated to join animal control mostly because of the dog catcher stigma, he said. In the four years since, he hasnt looked back.
We do so much more than drive around looking for dogs, he said. We respond to calls for injured animals, trapped animals. Ive gone through sewers to get kittens out. Weve all done more than what people understand we do.