An Indio man who allegedly threatened police online, then choked a police dog when officers attempted to arrest him at his home, pleaded not guilty Thursday to nine felony counts, including making criminal threats and animal cruelty.

Robert Anthony Garcia, 22, is accused of posting photos of himself on Facebook, in which he posed with guns and made threats against police.

On June 23, 2017, officers went to Garcia’s home in the 81000 block of Fred Waring Drive because he had applied to join the California Highway Patrol, and law enforcement was concerned that the alleged threats might be carried out at a CHP event he was scheduled to attend on June 24, court documents state.

Police established a perimeter around Garcia’s home and he exited the residence but allegedly did not comply with police demands, officers testified at a preliminary hearing last year.

After approaching officers while reaching into his pocket, Garcia was struck with pepper balls to no effect, leading officers to release a police dog to subdue him, according to testimony from K9 Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Allert and CHP Officer Arthur Berain.

The officers testified that Garcia wrestled with the dog and placed the animal in a chokehold. The dog, which did not sustain any serious injury, was freed after other officers detained Garcia, according to court documents. Garcia, who was bitten on the arms and legs by the dog, was not armed when he was detained at the home, the officers testified.

As Garcia’s trial date neared on the original complaint, prosecutors dismissed that case and filed a new complaint against him Thursday, with additional weapons possession charges.

Garcia remains in custody at the Riverside County jail in Indio in lieu of $40,000 bail. He’s due back in court April 3 for a felony settlement conference.

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