Chasing Smoke: The bizarre story of how Hunter Crisler got his dog back
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s been almost a month since Hunter Crisler had his truck, motorcycle and dog stolen from a bar in Jackson, Mississippi.
Crisler, a Clinton native, is in the marijuana industry in Colorado, where he has lived since 2013, and had paid into Mississippians for Medical Marijuana for first option at a production license for medical marijuana in Mississippi where, he thought, it would soon become legal.
He had traveled back and forth between the two states since Initiative 65 was approved by state voters in November’s election. While attending a Mississippians for Medical Marijuana meeting the night of May 12 at The Bulldog on Ridgewood Road, his 2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT was taken from the bar’s parking lot.
In the bed of the truck was a 2020 Kawasaki motorcycle and inside was his 5-year-old dog, Smoke.
Looking back now, Crisler sees the irony that Initiative 65 was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court just days later. “Had the lawsuit landed a week earlier, I would have never been there,” Crisler said.
Security cameras at The Bulldog were not operational at the time, and what followed would be a nearly week-long quest to get Smoke back, with metro-area residents and well-intentioned citizens of Facebook attempting to aid in the search.
WLBT interviewed Crisler two days into his hunt for Smoke, with a distraught Crisler telling the camera, “He’s a very sweet dog and I just need him. I can’t go home without him. I can’t leave and just give up on my boy.”
He spent that day putting up missing dog posters around the area where Smoke had been taken.
The first big break came when Crisler’s Cadillac was discovered at an abandoned car wash miles away from where it had been stolen. The truck was basically a carcass, with much of it being stripped for parts. It had also been torched.
There was no sign of Smoke.
It was then that Mississippi Lost Dog Recovery was brought in with Bruno, a German Shepherd, tracking Smoke’s scent through Jackson neighborhoods. There were also multiple people posting photos of dogs on Crisler’s Facebook page, asking if it was his missing Smoke. None of them were.
Then, another break in the case.
Crisler’s girlfriend, Carly, received a message on Facebook by a man named “Mack Dee,” telling her that he had Smoke and wanted to arrange an exchange. He would hand over Smoke for a reward.
Crisler had been scammed before, receiving a text from someone claiming to have Smoke. After a few more texts, Crisler knew it was fake.
Carly, though, gave “Mack Dee” Crisler’s contact information and Crisler soon got a call from an unknown number.
According to Crisler, what followed was a bartering session with the mystery man. Crisler told “Mack Dee” that he would hand over $1,000 for his missing dog. The man wanted more. Crisler said one grand was all he would risk. The man said to meet him at a local Walmart in 30 minutes “if you wanna see the dog again.”
“Mack Dee” said that if Crisler brought cops, he wouldn’t show.
Crisler agreed and went to the Walmart. At the thirty minute mark, he received another call from an unknown number with “Mack Dee” pulling in minutes later in a black Tahoe with no tag. Crisler said the Tahoe was full of smoke.
“Mack Dee” drove up beside Crisler, and Crisler immediately threw the cash into the Chevy. He then grabbed Smoke out of the vehicle.
The two men briefly spoke, with “Mack Dee” telling Crisler that his mother, who had been a dog lover, had recently passed away and that seeing Crisler’s emotional pleas on television had gotten to him.
Then, as quickly as he had appeared, “Mack Dee” was gone.
WLBT caught up with the pair the day they were brought back together, meeting Crisler and Smoke at the scene of the crime - the parking lot of The Bulldog.
Crisler seemingly held no grudge against “Mack Dee,” telling viewers of his short meeting with the man at the Walmart off of Highway 18 in Raymond. Crisler simply described the experience as “surreal.”
Crisler and Smoke are now back in Colorado, with Crisler having to buy an old Ford F150 to get them there.
According to Crisler, the Jackson Police Department, who he called “worthless,” has yet to file a report on his stolen vehicle. This means he cannot settle with his insurance.
Crisler’s 2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT is still sitting in an impound lot in Jackson.
“Absolutely the worst communication from law enforcement I’ve ever encountered,” he said of the Jackson Police Department.
According to Crisler, he will never return to Jackson.
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