WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A Florida man pursued by deputies after an armed robbery was shot after breaking a beer bottle over his head, as a deputy believed the popping sound was a gunshot, authorities said Saturday.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, deputies were attempting to arrest Matthew Correa, 27, who was a suspect in a series of crimes, including an armed robbery and a theft of a vehicle, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Correa was in a red Toyota pickup when he stood up through the vehicle’s sunroof, holding a rifle in one hand, the newspaper reported. In his other hand was a bottle of Busch Light, which he broke over his head, according to the Times.
“The sergeant who was behind Correa and unable to see the bottle heard the popping noise and believed Correa had shot at his deputies,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “The sergeant fired one shot at Correa, striking him in the neck.”
Correa was taken to an area hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, the sheriff’s office said.
No deputies were injured, the agency reported.
“Matthew is a bad guy, a real bad guy,” Judd said during a news conference, adding that Correa would be arrested when he was released from the hospital. “He has three previous felonies, one of them a home invasion burglary.”
Judd added that Correa also served time in Florida’s state prison for five years.
The incident began at about 8:19 a.m. EST Saturday when Correa and an unknown woman were traveling in a white Tahoe. They then stopped at the Sunrise Supermarket in Winter Haven and stole the pickup truck, WTVT reported.
According to the sheriff’s office, Correa and his companion entered a tire store near Winter Haven at about 8:45 a.m. and asked an employee for money. When the employee stated there was no money on the premises, Correa pulled out a rifle, pointed the weapon at the employee and began looking for cash, the Times reported. Correa can be seen on surveillance video rummaging through the office, WTVT reported.
The couple left when a customer arrived at the store, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies later spotted Correa driving alone in the red pickup, the sheriff’s office said. After a chase, deputies were able to surround the vehicle, the Times reported.
At that point, Correa pointed the weapon under his chin and told deputies to kill him, according to the newspaper.
Correa then stood up through the sunroof and held the gun “in a threatening manner,” the sheriff’s office said.
“He then dropped from the sunroof out of sight for a moment, then stood up with a rifle in one hand, and a Busch Light beer bottle in the other, which he smashed against his forehead, breaking the bottle,” according to the news release.
The deputy, responding to the noise, opened fire.
“Thank God none of our deputies were injured today. The suspect made several bad choices this morning, including the choice that forced our sergeant to shoot him,” Judd said. “We still need help trying to determine who the white female suspect is and where she was left. She was not present during the traffic stop and shooting.”
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