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Machete-wielding man shot, killed in Polk County deputy-involved shooting

Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 17:22:04-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A machete-wielding man was shot and killed in a deputy-involved shooting Wednesday night.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded, shortly before 7 p.m., to an apartment in unincorporated Frostproof after receiving a call about a family disturbance.

The sister of Yoel Arnaldo Mejia Santel, 28, told deputies her brother "was paranoid and likely schizophrenic," and that he had taken her phone, broken the screen and also broken her fingernail. She also told them that her brother said if she called the cops they'd have to shoot him because he'd have a machete.

Upon arriving at the apartment, deputies found Mejia Santel standing in the doorway with his right hand hidden behind the door frame. As deputies tried to de-escalate the situation, they asked him to show his hands but Mejia Santel refused and instead grabbed a machete and ran to a bathroom in the apartment.

As deputies followed behind him they smelled a strong odor of gasoline.

Deputies told Mejia Santel he needed to come out from the bathroom. He refused and told them, "Did you smell that gas? I poured gas everywhere."

According to a press release, deputies believed Mejia Santel had a lighter so they used a chemical agent in an attempt to get him out of the bathroom. For over 45 minutes, deputies and Mejia Santel spoke before he came out with the machete raised over his head and charged at deputies, the sheriff's office says.

The deputies fired at Mejia Santel then attempted life-saving measures and called the Polk County Fire Rescue, who continued those efforts. Authorities say Mejia Santel died at the scene.

“There is no doubt, Law Enforcement is a dangerous job," Sheriff Grady Judd said. "When deputies respond to a family disturbance, they do everything they can to de-escalate the situation and bring about a peaceful conclusion. Unfortunately, Santel put them in a position where they had to protect themselves and those around them.”

The deputy-involved shooting is currently under investigation.

"Standard protocol for all deputy-involved shootings will include four independent investigations," the sheriff's office said in a press release. "The PCSO homicide unit will conduct a death investigation. PCSO Administrative Investigations will conduct an administrative inquiry. The State Attorney's Office will conduct a separate investigation. The 10th District Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an investigation to determine the cause and manner of death."

The sheriff's office also said, "Per agency protocol, all members involved will be on administrative leave with pay during the initial phase of the investigation."

The sheriff's office says Mejia Santel was released from state prison in May, and his criminal history includes 12 felonies and three misdemeanors. Charges range from domestic battery, burglary, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, possession of methamphetamine, and violation of probation.