Two suspects charged in burglary, police-dog assault

Lake Elsinore men suspected in a string of countywide thefts

Photo source: facebook.com/hemetpolice
Pictured earlier this spring while healthy, loyal K-9 Duke recently apprehended a burglary suspect despite being injured.

■ By Taj Shorter / Reporter

Two suspects have been charged in the officer-involved shooting that occurred May 27 when two burglary suspects tried to run down an officer and hit Hemet police dog Duke.
Currently in custody is Messiah Acosta, a 36 year old Lake Elsinore resident, who has been named as one of the suspects involved, according to Hemet PD’s Lt. Eddie Pust. Acosta was charged with attempted murder, harming a police service dog, and burglary among other things. An additional suspect, Paul Erickson, has been charged with burglary, conspiracy, and resisting a police officer. Erickson is a 35 year old Lake Elsinore resident as well.
Last week, police responded to a burglary alarm at a Florida Avenue business that led them to the two suspects who had backed their truck up to the business. One of the men fled on foot, and the other drove away in their truck.
Duke, the Hemet K-9 police dog, was hit by the suspect’s truck during the chase, but in spite of his injuries, he was still able to apprehend the suspect running away on foot. Acosta and Erickson were both apprehended near the intersection of Yale and Florida after the investigating officer had called for backup. Police shot the second suspect as he was fleeing in a truck used in the burglary. Both suspects and the injured police dog were treated for their injuries.
The pair are suspected of having broken into multiple stores in the shopping center of the 2000 block of E. Florida Avenue and are possibly related to a string of other burglaries across Riverside County. Bail for Acosta has been set at $1 million and Erickson’s bail at $10,000.
According to Lt. Pust, per departmental policy, the officer involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave and has since been cleared to return to work. As for Duke, the diligent K-9, he is doing well. He suffered no internal injuries, but sustained a laceration to his hind leg. It has not yet been confirmed when he will return for duty.

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