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Deputy Wounded, Shooter Killed in Frostproof Incident

Suspect Vehicle Became Stuck After Chase From Highlands County

An attempted traffic stop by a Highlands County deputy sheriff near Avon Park Thursday evening ended in a chase to Frostproof, an exchange of gunfire, the wounding of a deputy sheriff, and the death of a shooter.

The shooter, identified as Ramon Martinez, 37, had an active felony warrant for his arrest for violation of probation, and a criminal history that included 16 previous felonies and 13 misdemeanors.

According to police reports, the deputy attempted to stop a car driven by a female who passed through a stop sign. She fled from deputies but managed to call 911 and report that she was being held in the car against her will.

The pursuit continued into Polk County, ending only when the woman drove the Nissan off the road and got stuck adjacent to an orange grove on Scenic Highway just north of Kelly Road.

Highlands County deputies radioed their counterparts in Polk, and deputies responded to assist. Officers on the scene saw a female behind the wheel, and a man identified as 37-year-old Ramon Martinez, in the front passenger seat.

Police ordered Martinez to get out of the vehicle, but he repeatedly refused to surrender or let the woman get out of the car and claimed to have an infant as well. The standoff lasted for "approximately 1.5 to 2 hours," police reported.

During the negotiations, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office were able to positively identify the woman who was in the car with Martinez, and confirmed that the baby that Martinez was referring to was elsewhere.

Martinez eventually allowed the female out of the car to retrieve a bottle of water for him, but she was detained by deputies and moved away from the scene. She confirmed to deputies that there was no baby in the car.

After a long standoff, Martinez entered the driver's seat and attempted to drive the car, but it remained stuck in deep sand. During that attempt the SWAT team reportedly threw a chemical agent into the car, and Martinez began shooting in response, hitting Yates in the shoulder, and injuring his face with glass shrapnel. The deputies returned fire and the suspect was declared deceased at the scene. Deputy Yates was airlifted from the scene, taken to Lakeland Regional Health, and released after surgery on a "through and through" shoulder injury, according to Polk Sheriff Grady Judd.

During the standoff Martinez had conversed with the on-scene supervisor but was seen smoking what was believed to be methamphetamines and accused deputies of being "Sinaloa cartel" members who were after him. Judd described the suspect as being in a "hyper, drug induced state" when the shooting began.

Martinez had 16 prior felony convictions, according to Judd, and had been sentenced in 2019 to a year in state prison for felony battery and four years of probation after being released. His probation was due to end in 2026.

The Tenth Judicial Circuit Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force is investigating the incident.

 

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