POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County man has a bandaged ear and a slew of charges against him after he tried to drown a K-9 in a swamp, authorities say.
“We are a team. I look out for him. He looks out for me,” said Master Deputy Paul Wright with pride about his K-9 Albi.
Albi, 3, has been partnered with Wright for a year and a half.
The team was sent to a wooded area in Mulberry to search for a man wanted for breaking into a shed.
“I noticed my shed door was kind of hay-wired. I looked around in there. I noticed a lot of my tools and stuff are missing,” said Jared Wilkerson, of Mulberry.
Guns were also missing.
Wilkerson checked his security footage and spotted a blue car and a man, who wasn’t supposed to be there.
“Hardworking people out here at work and you got people like that coming and stealing stuff they own. It just ain’t right,” he said.
So Wilkerson ventured out to local pawn shops to see if he could find his belongings.
“I noticed a car parked at the gas pump at Sunoco in Mulberry. I was trying to be discreet about it at first just to make sure. Sure enough that’s the car,” he said.
He confronted the driver, who took off after Wilkerson said he had called the sheriff’s office.
Later, Wright and Albi found the suspect, Christopher Howard, neck-deep in a swamp.
“The suspect got ahold of Albi in the course of that. He feigned that he was giving up and he got a hold of the dog and pulled his head underwater,” said Wright.
So, Wright sprang into action.
“As soon as I saw the dog was in danger, this is my best friend in the world. I ran in there to grab hold of him to make sure he was safe,” he said.
Other deputies on scene took Howard into custody.
“I’m glad the dog’s okay and I owe the whole crew involved a steak, and I will make that happen,” said Wilkerson,
That includes the dog, he said.
“We can never measure how many deputies’ lives these K-9’s save because they are the tip of the spear. They are the ones who go forward and protect us all,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Howard is facing a long list of charges including burglary, grand theft of a firearm and injuring a police dog.
“This one was dangerous because the guy ultimately tried to drown our K-9. These K-9s are injured more often than you can ever imagine.”
Last year, a Polk County K-9 named Vice was stabbed in the head by a suspect.