Come July 18, fans of CMT’s bounty-hunting hit Dog and Beth: On the Hunt will get to see Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman and his fugitive-chasing crew back out the trail of some of the nation’s most elusive bad guys (and girls).
In the meantime, “The Dog” has been making the rounds as a sought-after commentator on the hunt for Richard Matt and David Sweat who escaped from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6 and are still on the lam.
We talked candidly with Chapman about the situation — and about the Jackie Shell/Randy Howard shootout in Tennessee — during a recent interview about the upcoming third season of Dog and Beth: On the Hunt (much more on that soon).
CGM: Everyone was so surprised at the elaborate nature of Matt and Sweat’s plan — and that they pulled it off, seemingly unnoticed. You know the criminal mind better than anyone. Did it surprise you what the pair came up with and that they were able to get away with it?
DC: Yes, it did. In my career — spanning 36 years now, I guess — I’ve seen a lot of prison escapes. Matter of fact, I’ve been involved in one back in the ’70s or two of them, so I understand what they have to go through to get there. This is the most incredible, elaborate escape I’ve every seen. I doubt if they’ve got very high IQs, but this is a high IQ escape. This is amazing — and to keep it going.
One thing no one has ever said — and I haven’t ever brought up — is, I’ll tell ya, while we’re out looking on the outside, the inside of that prison is going crazy. When you’re a prisoner in a prison like that, you’re like a member of a local football team. You as a prisoner or as a convict, no matter if you hate each other, you all are camaraderie brothers when it comes to something like this. That prison is upset like crazy inside and when they catch them, it’s going to go nuts. This will provoke or start another [escape]. Once someone jumps or runs, 3 or 4 other guys try it. I’m afraid it’s going to start a chain reaction of escapes, not just at Clinton’s Prison or in New York, but across the United States.
Every convict in American is voting for those guys, is encouraging those guys. They’re on those guys’ side.
Do you believe that there are a lot of folks on the outside who are also saying “If I see them, I’m not going to say boo about it”?
You know how we are in America — ISIS is recruiting volunteers here, right? There are girls and guys that want to be a terrorist. I heard yesterday from a very credible source that they had pulled someone over that was going up there to give [Matt and Sweat] a ride. There’s a lot of girls will go drive up there to pick them up. There’s a lot of sympathetic, heart bleeding — or whatever they’re called — that would help those guys out. The longer they’re gone, the better it is for them.
The cops pretty well have it quarantined off. They’ve got it where no one else can get in. They had them allegedly in a little spot by a gas station, digging in the garbage, so if they get them in that area, then the bounty hunters won’t pursue. But if they don’t get them in a few days … . Everybody I know has called me up and said, “Dog, when we leaving?”
My friend just called me right now, Jeff Kirkpatrick, and said, “When you going?” I’m like, “Well, you know, Jeff, I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. “Here comes Dog. He thinks he could do it.” And Jeff is like, “Brother, when are you going?” I’m like, “Uh.” [Laughs] I said, “I’ll wait and see if they catch them, but …”
…it’s just itching at you, isn’t it?
Oh yeah! You want this so bad! This is hunting though. I’m from Colorado, so I once in the ’80s caught an escaped prisoner from Canon City, CO. — my mule, my Doberman and me. Hunting in the mountains and in that forest area is my forte. I’m half-breed Apache. That is the best area I’ve every hunted in is tracking a human like you would a fox. There’s different hunting. There’s the streets, there’s the bars, there’s the brothels, there’s the this, there’s that — but then there’s just the woods and the country and the elements. I would love this. Don’t make me cry!
This is what happened with [Max Factor heir] Andrew Luster — and then the victim called me. When the victim called me, that was it. When she said, “Dog, every time the wind blows in the trees and the leaves rustle, I think it’s him outside my window.” I said, “That’s enough. I’m going to get him.”
Who knows what the straw that broke the Dog’s back will be, right?
You’ve said on several news shows that they’re getting tired, they’re getting hungry and that’s when they’re going to start making a mistake — do you think that is what is going to prove their undoing?
If I had a partner with me, right there — which they do — I would have already been in a vehicle. I don’t know if they’re really still around there or no, but if there’s evidence there they’re there, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. You know from the TV shows how dumb criminals are. I chase these guys with spectacular movements and then they go do something really stupid — “I’m going to call mom” or “I’m going to just go by and see mom for 5 minutes.” Man, what the hell? You knew I was sitting in front of the house!
I don’t know. I’d have to check their background. I’d have to look in their cell. I’d have to talk to guys around them, people they visited last. They had a plan B. They had another plan.
We have seen on Dog and Beth that social media has really factored into what you do — sometimes for good, sometimes not so much. Are you surprised that social media is not proving their undoing?
It will be soon as I get a lead! We get one lead, it’s over. Again, this is guys in the woods. This is a whole different bounty hunt than you hunting in the city. No one can see them. What they’re doing is traveling at night, I’m positive. They’re not traveling during the day because the cops are using heat-seeking equipment cameras to find them, so they have to be under something like metal where it doesn’t go through — a tractor or something like that. And they have to cover their whole body because they’re using millions of dollars of sophisticated stuff to catch these two guys — so they’ve got to travel at night. I think it’s 12 miles a day or something like that a human being can walk. They’re moving at night and not at all during the day, because they’ll find them. But like I say, who knows? They could be not even there — but that’s a lot of money they’re spending on this, isn’t it?
There was also the much-publicized situation of Tennessee bounty hunter Jackie Shell and the shootout he had with Randy Howard.
Is this a textbook example of what Dog and Beth: On The Hunt is about in terms of using non-lethal weaponry? When you saw that situation unfold, what was the discussion that you and Beth and your team had?
Beth went very crazy because we’re going around the country training [bondsman] not to shoot, not use lethal force.
Let me tell you what you should say about this and what we found out: This guy is an ex-cop. This is not a “Dog the Bounty Hunter” kind of guy. This is an ex-deputy. As an ex-deputy, I don’t know for sure the rules, but let me guess. You get shot at as a deputy, you’d better shoot back. You’re a cop. If that’s what brain thought he had — obviously it was — and he shot back.
If it was Dog the Bounty Hunter? “Dog the Bounty Hunter kills country western star!” Dog is in jail. If it was Leonard Padilla, the oldest one of us — “Leonard Padilla kills country western star!” “Leonard Padilla looks at life sentence.” Because this guy is a ex-deputy, a retired copper, he’s going to get a little play.
But I wasn’t there. The guy knocked on the door. He got shot at. I personally — even though a couple of my team carry a gun — I would have hit the ground and called 911 — “I need help now!” You shoot at that cop, you’re going to get shot back at. I think that the cop in him took over, that sensibility.He didn’t have that kind of training like I do. And again, I wasn’t there. What if he was within feet of being shot and he had to shoot because the guy was going to shoot one more time? But the guy is dead and that’s terrible. We catch them and let God sort them out.
It’s a tough time to be a cop in America — does this feed into that, then? I’m happy to have them out on the streets protecting me and my family, but I would not want to be in their shoes right now.
I am, too. It’s hard. Body cameras are going to fix it because there’s been a lot of that going on for many years. That’s why, when Dog the Bounty Hunter first came on television 11 or 12 years ago, they were all upset at me for giving the guys a cigarette. I met a deputy a few years ago and he’s like, “Dog, you see these Marlboros?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He goes, “I never smoke. I carry them because of you.” I thought, wow, and this guy looks like Robocop!
So it’s changing, but a lot of them are very, very abusive out there and the body cams that all cities and states are going to are going to now will help stop that — especially to minorities. I don’t say this much, but there’s not too many minorities that I arrest on my show because they don’t get a fair chance. You get a Caucasian kid busted for marijuana, he gets probation. You get a black kid busted, he gets sentenced. I don’t care what they say — I’m old enough to say how it is without hurting anyone’s feelings now. That’s how it is.
So the body cams are going to help cops keep their cool. I did this for 20-some years without a camera there and I can just say it like this to be sensible: I’ve told a lot of guys that I’ve captured in the last few years, “You’re lucky there’s a camera here.”
Even though you’ve been at this for years, are you still shocked at what people you’re chasing are still willing to do, even with a camera there?
Oh yeah. They don’t care. How could you walk into a bank knowing that there’s 10 cameras pointed your way and be like, “Put your hands in the air”? That takes a lot of guts because smile! You’re on the bank’s camera. That’s the stupidest thing. But bank robbers are the worst. They’re fun to chase, though. They’re crazy. They’re just a different breed of men. They don’t care if there’s a camera or not!
Dog and Beth: On the Hunt premieres Saturday, July 18 at 9/8CT on CMT. See the August issue of Channel Guide Magazine and check back soon for more on the new season and our interview with Dog.