POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating a deputy-involved shooting in unincorporated Frostproof.
Deputies say the shooting happened Wednesday around 9 p.m. on Freedom Drive.
According to PCSO, deputies responded to a home around 7 p.m. for reports of a family disturbance by the suspect’s sister.
The sister told deputies that her brother, 28-year-old Yoel Arnaldo Mejia Santel, was “paranoid and likely schizophrenic.” Deputies say she also said her brother took her cellphone, broke the screen, and during a physical altercation, injured her finger and broke her fingernail.
PCSO said the sister told deputies that Santel made statements that is she calls the cops, they’ll have to shoot him because he’ll have a machete.
When deputies arrived, they found Santel standing in the doorway of the apartment. Deputies say Santel’s right hand was hidden behind the doorframe.
The sheriff’s office said to try to deescalate the situation, deputies tried talking with Santel and asked that he show his hands. Santel refused and as one of the deputies attempted to get control of him, PCSO said Santel was able to pull away and go into his apartment, where he armed himself with a machete and retreated to a bathroom.
Deputies say they noticed a strong odor of gasoline when they entered the apartment.
PCSO said deputies told Santel to leave the bathroom, but he refused. Instead, he told deputies, “Did you smell that gas? I poured gas everywhere.”
Deputies believed Santel also had a lighter on him so they introduced a chemical agent to get him out of the bathroom with his hands up and talked with him for 45 minutes, deputies say.
The sheriff’s office say Santel left the bathroom with the machete raised over his head and charged at the deputies. Fearing for their safety, PCSO said deputies fired at Santel.
Deputies and Polk County Fire Rescue officials tried to perform life-saving efforts on Santel. He later died of his injuries at the scene.
“There is no doubt, law enforcement is a dangerous job. When deputies respond to a family disturbance, they do everything they can to deescalate the situation and bring about a peaceful conclusion. Unfortunately, Santel put them in a position where they had to protect themselves and those around them,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
During a search of the apartment, deputies found a glass pipe with white residue which tested positive for methamphetamine in Santel’s bedroom.
Deputies say Santel’s criminal history includes 12 felonies and three misdemeanors, including battery domestic violence, burglary, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, possession of methamphetamine, and violation of probation. He was released from the Florida state prison in May of 2020.
The PCSO homicide unit will now conduct a death investigation. PCSO Administrative Investigations will conduct an administrative inquiry. The State Attorney’s Office will conduct a separate investigation. The 10th District Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an investigation to determine the cause and manner of death.
Per agency protocol, all deputies involved will be on administrative leave with pay during the initial phase of the investigation.
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