The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a retail theft suspect who is accused of attempting to drown a police dog after running from cops.

Matthew Christopher Johnson, 37, of Port Charlotte, was detained on Nov. 2 by deputies during an investigation into a theft at the 7-Eleven in Port Charlotte, located at 3362 Tamiami Trail. Johnson and another man were stopped by a deputy in the parking lot after they were identified by the clerk as the suspects in the theft.

While the deputy spoke with the store clerk, Johnson fled the scene on his bicycle. Deputies set up a perimeter, and a corporal arrived with his partner, K-9 Sparta, to track Johnson. K-9 Sparta and the corporal found Johnson standing in a nearby canal trying to hide behind a tree. He refused to comply with commands to lay down on the ground.

Johnson then went for a backpack that he had nearby, at which time K-9 Sparta was released to apprehend him.

Sparta apprehended Johnson on the right arm, but he dragged the dog by the head into the water and started pushing him under. Sparta let go of Johnson during the fight, and the corporal was able to pull him back to shore as Johnson swam across the canal and continued to flee from deputies.

Johnson was not located and is now wanted by CCSO for retail theft, resisting an officer without violence, and offenses against a police dog. Anyone with information on his whereabouts can contact CCSO or call the Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

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