An ex-convict accused of striking a police canine with his car in Hemet and nearly running over the dog’s partner pleaded not guilty Monday to attempted murder and inflicting injuries to a law enforcement service animal.

Messiah Nathon Acosta, 36, was arrested last month along with 35-year-old Paul Robert Erickson following a confrontation with Hemet police in the 2000 block of Florida Avenue.

Erickson, who’s charged with burglary and resisting arrest, is free on a $25,000 bond and slated to be arraigned in August.

Acosta appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Johnson, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 5 at the Banning Justice Center.

Acosta is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

According to Hemet police Lt. Eric Dickson, about 5:15 a.m. on May 27, a K-9 unit — an officer and his dog partner, “Duke” — were sent to a business on Florida Avenue to investigate a burglary alarm activation.

The lawman spotted a pickup parked immediately adjacent to the business, with Erickson at the wheel, Dickson said.

He alleged the defendant bailed out of the truck and fled eastbound, at which point the officer and Duke gave chase. Within seconds, Acosta allegedly jumped into the pickup and drove in the direction of his fleeing cohort, knocking Duke over with the vehicle and nearly slamming into the officer, who opened fire on the pickup, according to Dickson.

Acosta allegedly turned north on Yale Street, and Duke regained his footing, chasing down Erickson, who surrendered without further trouble, Dickson said.

According to Dickson, several patrol units caught up with Acosta a short distance away, and shots were fired as they attempted to stop Acosta, who immediately surrendered.

Acosta and Erickson both suffered minor injuries and were hospitalized. Duke suffered a leg injury that required veterinary attention and was taken out of service for several weeks. The canine’s partner was not injured, Dickson said.

According to court records, Acosta has served time in state prison within the last five years, though his prior offenses were not listed.

Erickson has a prior conviction for filing false insurance claims to commit grand theft, records showed.

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