Suspect in robbery, assault of 78-year-old man bitten by Kingsport K-9, arrested

Rain Smith • Jan 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The suspect believed to have assaulted and robbed a 78-year-old man – who was breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank outside a Kingsport pharmacy when attacked – has been arrested by police.

According to KPD Det. Chris Tincher, Matthew Lee Serpas, 25, was found hiding in a hollowed-out dresser within Lee Apartments on Friday afternoon. After fleeing from police attempting to serve a warrant for his arrest, Serpas was sniffed out of his hiding spot by a police dog – and subsequently bitten on the right arm.

Tincher said Serpas was wanted for aggravated robbery following an Oct. 26 incident at Walgreens, 1420 West Stone Drive. A 78-year-old man, breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank, was sitting in the passenger seat of his vehicle while his wife was inside having prescriptions filled.

Serpas approached the victim and asked for directions to the mall. When that conversation ended, Serpas allegedly jumped into the back seat of the man's automobile. Tincher said Serpas grabbed the victim across the chest and demanded money, stating he had a gun.

According to Tincher, the victim said he didn't have any money, and reached underneath his passenger seat for a gun of his own. Serpas allegedly grabbed the weapon from the man before exiting the vehicle and fleeing.

Video surveillance equipment outside the pharmacy captured a silver Dodge Intrepid leaving the area. Tincher said police were able to track that car to Serpas at 650 East Sevier Ave., apartment No. 128.

With a warrant for Serpas arrest, detectives descended on the apartment shortly after 2 p.m. Friday. A police report says Serpas knew he was wanted and had agreed to turn himself in. But when police arrived he allegedly ran out of the apartment's back door and through the courtyard at Lee Apartments.

Police cordoned off and searched the area, but initially did not relocate Serpas. According to Det. Tincher, Serpas doubled back to his apartment, with police receiving information from a neighbor that he had returned to the unit.

Police then returned to the apartment, sending in K-9 officer Odus inside ahead of themselves. Tincher said Odus found Serpas hiding upstairs within a hollowed-out dresser, and bit the suspect in the right arm. Before transport to the Kingsport City Jail, Serpas was treated for minor wounds at Holston Valley Medical Center.

Serpas is charged with aggravated robbery for the prior incident at Walgreens, and evading arrest after fleeing authorities on Friday.

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