Deputy investigated in armed road-rage case

Orange County Deputy Joseph Ayala reassigned during investigation

CLERMONT, Fla. – An Orange County sheriff's deputy is under criminal investigation after a driver claimed he pointed a gun at him in a fit of road rage.

Richard Valentin told News 6 he was on his way home from work March 8, trying to make a left-hand turn onto a busy Highway 50 in Clermont, when a white Kia honked at him.

Valentin said he finally made the turn and the white Kia followed him.

"I sped up just a little bit, and he's right behind me," Valentin said. "I say, 'OK, this guy's tailing me.'"

Valentin said the Kia followed him very closely through several intersections and onto Citrus Tower Boulevard. He said the car finally decided to pass him, and that's when he saw the driver.

"I see somebody pull out a gun. He pulled up the gun and pointed straight at me. I saw the gun right in my face," he said.

Valentin said he followed the Kia to get the driver's license plate number and he called 911. He said he was still on the phone when both cars drove into the RaceTrac gas station on Highway 50 near Highway 27.

He said that is where he was the driver, Deputy Joseph Ayala, get out of his car, exposing the sheriff's uniform under the jacket he was wearing.

According to a police report, Ayala told investigators he did not point his gun at anyone. Instead, he said he pulled his gun out of its holster to show the other driver he was armed.

News 6 discovered Ayala is under an internal investigation within the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"We will take all of the information that Clermont provides us. We will interview the deputy involved, and we will find out what occurred and come to a conclusion," said Capt. Angelo Nieves, of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Clermont police have turned their case over to the Office of the State Attorney, who will decide if any criminal charges should be filed against Ayala.

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