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Monday, April 12, 2004



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TIM RYAN / TRYAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Duane "Dog" Chapman has begun filming his own reality show, "Dog the Bounty Hunter," to air on the A&E network.


Series catches ‘Dog’
on the hunt

Duane Chapman’s bounty hunter
TV show will air this summer


Approaching a darkened house in the heart of Honolulu, Duane "Dog" Chapman was smiling gleefully. The last of a breed of self-styled bounty hunters, Chapman and his crew were closing in, ready to pounce.

"It was the first time I had to chase a drug addict in a place with no electricity," Chapman says. "I couldn't believe it. Even his friends didn't have electricity. They lived like vampires."

This capture was a bit different from those of the past. Chapman, 51, and his team -- sons Leland and Duane, "hanai" brother Tim Chapman, friend Justin Bihad, longtime companion Beth Smith and a crew from New York-based Hybrid Productions -- were filming an A&E network series.

A dozen half-hour episodes of "Dog the Bounty Hunter," which began filming on Oahu and Kona last month, will begin airing in summer. Think of the show as "Cops" meets "The Osbournes" with a touch of WWE Wrestling.

"It's the good guys, us, catching the bad guys, them," Dog says. "What you see on-screen is absolutely what we did, but there will be a lot of bleeping of some, uh, language, you know, from the heat of battle."

Dog, best known for his capture of California rapist Andrew Luster last year in Mexico, is excited about starring in what A&E calls "A Real People" series.

"Filming is five days a week, 12 hours a day, from shortly after we get up until we're celebrating a capture at night," he says. "The crew is right there with us through everything.

"For some people it would be intrusive, but not if you dreamed about doing this your whole life."

"Dog," who owns Da Kine Bail Bonds in Honolulu, is sitting on the lanai at the Outrigger Canoe Club wearing his trademark outfit: black pants and leather vest, black leather and silver-tipped cowboy boots, a couple of black leather straps on his wrist and arm, and wraparound dark glasses. Around his neck is an ivory boar's tusk carved into a fish hook.

Despite the intimidating appearance, Dog is polite, humble, open and determined about what he wants from life besides catching bad guys.

"Dog the Bounty Hunter" will feature the home and professional life of Dog as he juggles his case load, a volatile relationship with Smith, and his 12 children.

Since filming began here, Dog and his team have arrested seven people on Oahu and the Big Island for drug offenses and warrant violations. "Dog the Bounty Hunter" also will film the group arresting people in the western United States.

"I hunt them from here, locate 'em, then we fly to where they are and grab 'em," Dog says.

This might be just another good-vs.-evil program if it weren't for Dog's charisma (including the ability to talk a thirsty man out of a glass of water), his "Doggisms" and, well, dogged persistence.

Likely to be as entertaining as the captures will be Dog's incessant banter with arrestees, including more than a smattering of preaching to go straight.

"There are moments of triumph when you make them raise their right hand and they swear they'll never do this again," he says.

Then there's what he calls "the ride home with the Dog."

"That's the ride to jail, their last ride, when I lecture them," he says. "I tell them what I used to do, what I used to be, what I did to change.

"Even if you make a mistake you can change, but I tell ya, brother, if you insist on making mistakes we're goin' to get ya every time. Bottom line is jail, prison, so goodbye."

IN ONE SCENE, Dog sincerely tells a prisoner: "We love you, but just like we loved the dog that bit the mailman, once he broke the skin we had to get rid of him. Don't bite the mailman."

Dog knows life's two paths firsthand. He served time at age 22 in a Texas penitentiary for his participation in a murder 25 years ago. He served 18 months of a five-year sentence. When he was released, he vowed to redeem himself and found his calling on the right side of the law.

Dog won't discuss his series salary except to say it's "not much."

The reward, he believes, will come "when, not if" the series is picked up for a second season.

"I have a lot of faith, brother," he says.

(Bounty hunters receive 10 percent to 15 percent of the original bail for capturing bail jumpers, he says.)

Some of the filmed captures show the Dog team mugging the target "Hawaiian style."

"Just like sumo ... we grab 'em quick and get them down," he says. "When there are four or five of us, there ain't no man alive who's getting away.

"If they try to use a gun, we're not killers, but I know that phone number real quick."

He's referring to his backup team, who carry guns. As an ex-con himself, Dog cannot legally carry a firearm. But he hasn't needed one in capturing 6,000 of the nation's most-dangerous criminals and bringing them to justice.

The secret is grabbing the criminal quickly.

"Don't let them have time to think, because for a split second they're always thinking how can they escape," says Dog, who carries two large pepper-spray canisters in a leather leg holster. "We're the predator's predator; we're the shark that eats the shark."

The group does carry handcuffs, but no keys to ward off a rare moment of sympathy.

"The cuffs go on and the cops are the only ones to take them off," Dog says. "I'm a softy."

Dog believes he may have wanted to be a police officer in another life.

"I respect the law almost as much as the Bible," he says. "You have a different breed of cop in Hawaii. They're braver, more efficient and catch the bad guys when they run."

Arresting someone on a warrant charge means bounty hunters legally are protected by police, Dog says. "If something goes wrong, you can call Big Brother," he says.

Locating a criminal, even the highly publicized Luster, requires basic investigative work. So Dog and Smith learn the suspect's habits: appearance, interests, girlfriends, best friends, enemies. But going Hollywood has created a higher tip scale for informants.

"Money is the root of all snitches," Dog says. "Information that used to cost us $100 is now $1,000."



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