Duane Chapman, or “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” is well known for his work and his faith — but his life didn’t always look the way it has on his wildly popular show.
The 69-year-old has been tracking down criminals for over four decades and puts his fugitive count at around 8,000, but he wasn’t always on the right side of the law.
Throughout his life, there have been two major themes at play: Christianity and crime. Chapman recently gave an interview on “The Prodigal Stories Podcast” detailing those two influences on his life.
“My journey has built faith,” he told The Christian Post. “I’ve been through some terrible stuff, but it builds faith when you can look back and tell other people ‘Look, I’ve been there done that. Here’s what you do.’ And then they do it. I love sharing my testimony … so others don’t have to go through it.”
From day one, Chapman knew about Jesus — the women in his life made sure of it.
“My great, great grandmother was a Christian,” he said, according to FaithWire. “She was a pastor. My mother … all day long, her whole life, all she did was pray for us.”
His mom made sure her kids were in church every single Sunday — no exceptions — or there were consequences.
“We had to go to church, or [my mom] took the keys away from my motorcycle,” Chapman said.
Despite the constant witness Chapman had in his faithful mother, his own faith experienced setbacks in his younger years when he decided that God didn’t really have time for him.
“I was committed, and then, I thought, ‘God’s really busy in Vietnam, so He’s not going to care really what I do as long as I say the blessing and keep God kind of first,’” he said.
But instead of just coasting and generally staying “good,” Chapman fell into a life of crime. That pursuit came to a point when he broke into a house with three others, looking for drugs.
One of the other three ended up killing the man in the home they broke into. Chapman was sentenced to five years in prison in the 1970s, though he only ended up serving only 18 months.
“After going to prison in the 70s in Texas for 18 months, I realized right then that, at the end of this rainbow of crime and all that, is not a bucket of gold, it’s a cell,” he said.
Despite his time as a criminal, God hadn’t given up on him — and neither had his mother. She seemed to redouble her efforts to get her son right with God, even playing recordings of the Bible at night when Chapman was sleeping.
When he would ask why she had played the recording, she would pretend she didn’t know who had turned it on.
Eventually, Chapman realized there needed to be a change. It started slowly, with him deciding to act nicer, but his heart wasn’t really in it.
Soon, the actions worked their way into his heart and became a character trait instead of action divorced from belief. It wasn’t a painless process, though.
“I started acting nice,” he said. “I’m an Indian outlaw, so I started acting like I wasn’t. Then I started thinking, ‘What would Jesus do right now?’ … I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to slap [someone] or something, and I’d think, ‘Jesus would not do that.’
“I started pretending to be good, and all the sudden, I started being good.”
That personal conviction started to bleed over into his career. He could understand where a fugitive was coming from, and he would point them in the direction they should go.
“I would capture guys and tell them, ‘Listen, man, I’ve been there, done that … we need supernatural help,’” he said. “I am not a preacher — never will be. But I have a message.”
“I want people to know I stand for God,” he told the Christian Post.
“And I believe God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh like never before, and I’m excited to be a part of that.”