POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The third and final suspect has been arrested after a vast hunting ground became a crime scene involving a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer, according to the Polk County Sheriff.
“It is the old west. It is way, way, way out in the middle of nothing,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd about the River Ranch Hunt Club and adjacent Avon Park Bombing Range property. “You could walk out into that vast area and we could start searching for you and never find you.”
Michel Amalfi, Lazaro Milian and Rodrigo Alberto Mato La Rosa are facing attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer charges.
The sheriff says they were at River Ranch Hunt Club in eastern Polk County Saturday night.
The area covers tens of thousands of acres and was filled this holiday weekend with 5,000 campers.
One FWC officer was on the property and was investigating reports of illegal hunting when he saw the men flashing lights.
“He’s following them on foot through these woods when he hears a gunshot,” said Sheriff Judd.
When the officer approached the men, he asked them to give him their weapons and they complied.
Milian left the scene while the officer was ordering him to stop and said “I have nothing to do with this,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Milian was on probation for grand theft charges.
Then, the sheriff said, the remaining suspects went after the FWC officer.
“Rodrigo comes out of his seat on the ATV and beats on the officer and they beat him down and then they hit him with the ATV and they leave and flee,” said Sheriff Judd.
All the men were from south Florida. Rodrigo and Amalfi previously had only minor infractions on their record.
“We weren’t dealing with hardened criminals,” said Sheriff Judd.
The injured officer was found an hour later thanks to GPS technology. It took two hours to get him out of the property, Sheriff Judd said.
“It’s a dangerous environment. Had they, FWC, not had the technology they do, the GPS tracking, we might have still been looking for him,” said Sheriff Judd.
“The officer is recovering and asks that their privacy be respected during this time,” wrote FWC spokesperson Melody Kilborn in a statement.
Several agencies responded to the scene to investigate.
Officials discovered Amalfi’s cell phone which they used to track him and Milian down at a campsite. LaRosa was later apprehended in Hialeah.
“They would have only faced, at worst, a misdemeanor notice to appear had they just cooperated with the officer,” he said. “That’s all. It went from a misdemeanor, if you will traffic citation type event, to an attempted murder charge.”
On Monday, a judge set Amalfi’s bond at a little more than $50,000.
Milian is being held on no bond since he was on probation at the time of the incident.
A defense attorney at the first appearance hearing pointed out that Milian left before the attack occurred.
“He’s the one that began the resisting. He is the one that caused the whole thing to start tumbling down,” said Sheriff Judd.
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