Deputies: Merced man escaped on horse after assault

A Merced man was arrested Tuesday, a day after authorities allege he assaulted a 79-year-old man and escaped deputies while riding a horse.

Liddon T. Cowden, 43, was booked at the Merced County Jail on $17,000 bail on suspicion of willful animal cruelty and evading officers, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Deputy Delray Shelton said Cowden is accused of hitting his 79-year-old landlord with a rope or the reins of a bridle around 3p.m. Monday in the 1700 block of Belcher Avenue.

The Sheriff’s Department said Cowden fled on horseback when deputies arrived, and they pursued him to the area of Belcher and and Santa Fe avenues, but Cowden took off again.

“Liddon crossed a busy road and a set of railroad tracks, not stopping for lights, sirens or verbal commands from law enforcement,” Shelton said in the statement. “He ran the horse hard during this period, riding him into a nearby field and waiting.”

Authorities said Cowden raced away again as deputies approached and took “a sharp right turn” over a canal bank, causing a sheriff’s vehicle to slide into a drainage ditch. The deputy was not injured, and the vehicle was pulled from the ditch. A damage estimate was not available.

The sheriff’s Tactical and Reconnaissance Team arrested Cowden the following morning at his home in Merced.

Cowden told investigators he fled because he did not want the Sheriff’s Department to impound his horse, Shelton said.

Shelton said Cowden was involved in a similar incident with a horse about five years ago. Details on the previous case were not available.

Cowden remained in custody Wednesday evening.