Suspect shot when deputy mistakes ‘popping noise’ of broken beer bottle for gunfire, Polk sheriff says

Matthew Correa, 27, wanted for armed robbery, Sheriff Grady Judd says

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd discusses a deputy-involved shooting Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – A man suspected in a series of Central Florida crimes broke a beer bottle over his head and was shot by a sheriff’s deputy who thought the sound was a gunshot, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Grady Judd said Saturday that deputies were trying to arrest Matthew Correa, 27, when he stood up through the sunroof of a stolen pickup truck holding a rifle in one hand and a bottle of Busch Light beer in the other.

The sergeant, who was behind the suspect and wasn’t able to see the bottle, “heard the popping noise” and thought Correa had shot at his deputies, Judd said. He fired one shot, hitting Correa in the neck.

Correa, who was with a female companion, stole a red Toyota pickup truck from a supermarket parking lot in Winter Haven, Judd said.

A short time later, the pair went into a tire store and asked an employee for money, officials said. When told there was no money, the man took a rifle from a duffle bag, pointed it at the employee and started looking around for money, but left when a customer arrived, according to Judd.

Deputies began looking for the pair, and spotted the red pickup truck driving south on US 17 near Cypress Gardens Boulevard, Judd said. They were unsuccessful in using stop sticks, and the man tried to hit a deputy with the truck, officials said.

After deputies closed in around Correa, he allegedly put the rifle under his chin and told deputies to kill him, Judd said.

“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,” according to a sheriff's news release.

Correa was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not thought to be life threatening. No one else was injured in the Saturday morning shooting, Judd said.

”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.”

About the Authors:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.