Off-duty deputy loses department gun and badge in robbery outside Publix

Suspected robber is convicted felon

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - An off-duty sheriff's deputy got to experience the other side of crime over the weekend, when she got robbed on her way into a Winter Haven Publix.

As daylight dimmed Saturday evening, investigators say a man lurked in the shadows before snatching a purse away from Regina Hulverson, an off-duty deputy with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Inside Hulverson's purse: a department issued gun, her badge, identification, and other belongings.

Investigators say she tried to fight back, but the strap on the purse broke. She was able to chase after the robber and get a description of the get-away car.

"She certainly did everything she could to pursue the suspect until he entered the vehicle," said Chief Gary Hester with the Winter Haven Police Department.

The suspect has since been identified as Damarius Matthews, a convicted felon who investigators believe now has possession of Deputy Regina Hulverson's gun and badge.

"That's scary that they can pull someone over and impersonate an officer," said Daryl Galeno, a woman who routinely shops at the same Publix.

While police feel they're right on Matthew's trail, they admit it's not your average purse-snatching case.

"The credentials won't match up with anyone but her, but the badge is concerning," Hester said. "The thing that we're probably most concerned about is the firearm."

Hulverson was not available to comment on Monday.

A spokesperson for the sheriff's office would only say they hope the suspect is caught quickly.

Matthews is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS.

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