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Two deaths and a SWAT standoff during ‘wild night’ in Polk, sheriff says

A homicide investigation led to a standoff in Polk County during which the suspect was shot and killed.
A "wild night" in Poinciana left two people dead and one shot seven times, but in stable condition. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
A "wild night" in Poinciana left two people dead and one shot seven times, but in stable condition. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]

Two people are dead and one injured after what Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called a “wild night” in the Poinciana area on the border of Polk and Osceola counties.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, 40-year-old Rudy “Shorty” Arenas shot Orlando Riviera-Vasquez four times and his wife, Brenda, seven times Sunday evening.

Rivera-Vasquez, 40, died at the scene, but Brenda, whose last name is being withheld under Marsy’s Law, was able to call 911. She was taken to a local hospital and listed in stable condition, Judd said.

Arenas was tracked to another house in Poinciana hours later, where he was shot and killed by members of the SWAT team.

“I’m going to brief you about a wild night last night in Poinciana," Judd said in a Monday news conference. "A normally very quiet community, it was anything but that starting at about 7:23 last night.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd briefs media in Poinciana after a SWAT standoff ended with a dead suspect on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]

Judd said it started earlier in the afternoon when Arenas — who reportedly had been on a three-day, drug-fueled bender — met with a friend to trade his car for a gun. Arenas is a felon and legally not allowed to own firearms. Instead of making the trade, Arenas stole the .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun and kept the car.

“Rudy has been out of control,” Judd said.

Around 7:20 p.m., Judd said, Riviera-Vasquez got a call from Arenas saying he wanted to meet and show him something. They met in front of a house on Finch Lane as Riviera-Vasquez and his wife were returning home with food for their children.

Then, Judd said, things got bizarre.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said Orlando Riviera-Vasquez was shot and killed by Rudy Arenas on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]

Arenas stood outside the couple’s car and pulled out a wad of cash. When he started counting, Riviera-Vasquez said he didn’t have time for that because he had food for for his kids in the car. Seemingly offended, Judd said, Arenas pulled out the gun and started shooting into the car. One bullet hit Riviera-Vasquez in the head, killing him, but Brenda survived and was able to call 911.

“Shorty shot us,” she told the operator.

Emergency crews responded but were unable to revive Riviera-Vasquez. Brenda was taken to a local hospital.

Judd said deputies immediately started searching for Arenas. He’d fled in his daughter’s car. Arenas called his daughter, and the two met up. She also called the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and said she had the man authorities were looking for. In parts of Poinciana, near Kissimmee, one side of the street could fall under Osceola jurisdiction while the other could be Polk.

Polk deputies were notified by Osceola and were able to locate Arenas in the vehicle. When they tried to stop him, he ran into a relative’s house and locked himself in the bathroom. The Polk SWAT team was called in around 10:30 p.m. and negotiations started, stretching into Monday morning.

Rudy Arenas was killed Monday, Feb. 17 after a standoff with the Polk County Sheriff's Office SWAT team. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]

Judd said Rudy seemed erratic. SWAT members observed him from outside the house pointing the gun at himself and deputies, saying he was on drugs and would shoot himself or others if anyone tried to come in. At one point, he said he’d surrender if he was given a cigarette, so they sent a robot in. But he kept the cigarette and never came out.

Then, around 3 a.m., Arenas walked into a hallway without the gun but ran back and came out with it in his pocket, Judd said. SWAT members then broke a window from outside the home and fired tear gas inside. They shot Arenas multiple times with bean bags, sending him to the ground as the gun fell from his pocket.

“He immediately goes down. He picks the gun up and he points it at the SWAT team,” Judd said. “That was his last bad choice. ... Three of our SWAT team members shot him. A lot.”

Arenas died at the scene.

Judd said Arenas and Riviera-Vasquez both have criminal histories. Arenas had a combined 18 felony and misdemeanor charges between Florida, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Riviera-Vasquez had nine charges between Florida, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, including an almost six-year stint in Florida State Prison and an active felony warrant in Philadelphia at the time of his death.

Judd said lenient sentencing was also a culprit in the shootout.

“Had these guys been in prison where they should’ve been,” he said, “they would both be alive today.”

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