Polk County deputy loses fingers from homemade explosive device during struggle with suspect

Polk County

DUNDEE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Polk County deputy was seriously injured Sunday after a “homemade explosive device” went off during a disturbance call in Dundee, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies were investigating a situation at the Economy Motor Lodge at around 9:30 p.m. The deputies eventually went to the neighboring Monticello Motel, since the woman involved walked over to that property.

During the investigation, Marco Antonio Tolentino, who the sheriff’s office said was unrelated to the situation, approached the scene on a bicycle and began talking with a deputy who arrived as backup. However, the sheriff’s office said Tolentino would not say who he was and that he didn’t have any identification.

The deputy then asked the 39-year-old Dundee resident if he had anything illegal on his person, to which Tolentino responded by lifting his shift and showing a concealed pipe sticking out of his right pocket.

Tolentino said the pipe was for protection and then reached for it. The deputy told him not to and said he would remove the pipe himself, believing it to be a weapon.

According to the sheriff’s office, Tolentino then reached for it again and pulled away from the deputy. At this point, the pipe came apart and blasted a 12-gauge shotgun buckshot round into the deputy’s hand and into Tolentino’s hand and shoulder.

Sheriff Grady Judd said the deputy lost his index and middle finger.

PCSO said this type of explosive is called a zip gun, also known as an improvised firearm. The explosive is described as being two pieces of metal pipe locked together to hold a single shotgun shell that is fired when the pieces are pressed together.

Tolentino said he made the explosive himself, but the sheriff’s office said he does not have a concealed carry license. A search of Tolentino’s room found even more shotgun rounds.

Both the deputy and Tolentino were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Tolentino faces charges for attempted felony murder, possessing or discharging a destructive device, resisting an officer with violence, carrying a concealed weapon/firearm, and providing false info to a law enforcement officer.

The investigation is still active and will require three independent investigations as part of the protocol for officer-involved shootings, although no deputies fired weapons in this case.

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