LAND O'LAKES — William Melendez had been in the county jail since July when a woman accused him of sexually molesting her.
Early Monday morning, according to a Sheriff's Office spokesman, Melendez had this warning for Deputy Jonathan Krisher during a routine search:
"Get ready for hell today."
Melendez followed orders to stick his arms through an opening in the cell door used to slide in food trays, so Krisher could remove his handcuffs.
Melendez grabbed the deputy's arms and held on, spokesman Kevin Doll said. Krisher, who is 31 and has been with the agency for three years, unleashed pepper spray, but the inmate got it out of his hands.
Krisher wrestled his arms away, closed the slot door and called for backup, Doll said. Krisher suffered cuts and bruises on his arms and a broken finger.
Backup arrived, deputies armed with Tasers. Melendez used his mattress as a shield, Doll said. And he broke the fire sprinkler, so water poured into the room. Melendez waved an open handcuff as a weapon and aimed pepper spray at the deputies' faces, Doll said.
Deputy Anderson Vazquez, 46, came into the cell and spoke with Melendez in Spanish, Doll said. After calming down, Melendez dropped the cuffs and spray. A handcuff key that was stolen from Krisher was found in the toilet, Doll said.
Melendez, 50, of Hudson, has been in jail since July 1, after a 37-year-old woman accused him of holding her down and molesting her. When Melendez was arrested, a deputy said he spit on him. Melendez was charged with sexual battery and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Now he faces five counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, four counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, depriving an officer of means of protection and destroying fire extinguishing equipment. Melendez is being held in lieu of $160,000 bail.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.