A Florida man broke a beer bottle over his head, prompting a deputy who thought the popping sound was a gunshot to shoot him, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported Saturday.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said deputies were trying to arrest Matthew Correa, 27, when it happened, as he was a suspect in a series of crimes, including an armed robbery. Correa was in a pickup when he stood up through the sunroof with a rifle in one hand and a bottle of Busch Light in the other. He then broke the bottle over his head.
“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 a hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life threatening. No deputies were injured, the agency reported.
The bizarre chain of events began about 8:19 a.m. Saturday when Correa and a female companion went to a supermarket in Winter Haven in a white Chevy Tahoe. There, Correa stole a red Toyota pickup. The Tahoe was later found abandoned on State Road 540 east of Thornhill Road, deputies said.
At about 8:45 a.m., Correa and his companion went into a tire store near Winter Haven and asked an employee for money. When the employee said no money was there, Correa pulled a rifle out of a duffle bag, pointed the weapon at the employee and started looking for money. Correa and his companion left when a customer arrived, deputies said.
At some point Correa and his companion separated.
As deputies searched for the pair, the red pickup was seen on U.S. 17 near Cypress Gardens Boulevard. Deputies tried to stop the truck with stop sticks, but their attempts were not successful. Correa, who was behind the wheel, tried to hit a deputy with the truck, deputies said.
Correa entered the eastbound lane of State Road 540, where deputies were able to surround the truck -- very close, by the way, to where the Tahoe had been abandoned.
While in the truck, Correa pointed the rifle under his chin and told deputies to kill him. Deputies tried to de-escalate the situation, but Correa then stood up through the sunroof and held the gun “in a threatening manner,” a news release states.
“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,” the news release states.
That’s when the sergeant, thinking the popping sound was a gunshot, fired at Correa.
”Thank God none of our deputies were injured today,” Judd said. “The suspect made several bad choices this morning, including the choice that forced our sergeant to shoot him.”
Deputies are still trying to learn who the female companion was and ask anyone with information to call them at (863) 298-6200 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS,
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Correa, who faces multiple charges, has a criminal record that includes a charge of home invasion burglary, and he has spent five years in prison.
A standard review of the shooting by the sheriff’s office and State Attorney’s Office is under way.