TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities believe a man killed a person and took his girlfriend hostage before he was shot and killed by a deputy in Hillsborough County Wednesday morning.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 5600 block of State Road 674 after a man called 911 to report a homicide.
The man told deputies his friend, Juan Sarmiento, 42, had called him and asked for help throwing out some trash. When his friend arrived to help, he saw a man’s body wrapped in plastic in the back of a vehicle.
Deputies arrived at the location and saw the body. Then they heard a woman’s voice coming from a shed a few feet away. They said Sarmiento started banging on the door and warned deputies he had a hostage and was armed.
A bomb squad and crisis negotiators were called to the scene. Deputies blocked off State Road 674 between 7th Street and Maggie Street and ordered evacuations for nearby homes.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said Sarmiento became more hostile as the negotiations continued. He allegedly waved his gun and threatened to burn his hostage, his new girlfriend, calling her his insurance policy. He promised things would go “boom” and he would “die here today,” Chronister said.
More than nine hours later, Sarmiento appeared by a window.
“One of our SWAT operators is able to discharge his rifle, striking our suspect one time,” Chronister said. “That immediately activates hostage rescue. The SWAT team immediately makes entry, goes in and is able to remove this hostage to a place where she is now free of any danger.”
Chronister said Sarmiento was taken to South Bay Hospital, where he later died.
Investigators are still interviewing Sarmiento’s girlfriend and are working to identify the body found in his vehicle.
“We don’t even have him identified. We haven’t made entry into the car, that will come with a search warrant,” Chronister explained. “We don’t even know who he is, none the less what their relationship is.”
However, detectives know the victim stayed at the same residence as Sarmiento’s girlfriend, Chronister said.
“We know there is a relationship there, we just can’t say what it is at this point,” the sheriff added.
Chronister said Sarmiento was “not new to law enforcement.” His arrest record shows eight felonies, including aggravated assault and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to Chronister.
Chronister said the investigation is now in the hands of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, per the agency’s policy. The sheriff’s office is withholding the deputy’s name since he is an undercover detective, and they fear releasing that information could put the deputy and his family at risk.
“Ultimately, this is never the outcome we want to see in incidents such as these,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Thanks to the brave actions of the friend who called our dispatch center to report the shooting, we were able to save a woman who was held hostage and was potentially in a life-threatening situation.”