Gunmen evade authorities for miles before arrest in Winter Garden

Suspects accused of throwing assault rifles out window

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Five people who were seen firing guns and then evaded authorities for miles before eventually stopping in Winter Garden are in custody, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

Maj. Jacob Ruiz, spokesman for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators responded to the 2500 block of DeSoto Drive in Kissimmee around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in reference to shots being fired and an armed person.

Deputies spotted the suspect vehicle, described as a black Dodge Charger, on U.S. 192 but they said it did not stop for the investigators.

The sheriff’s helicopter followed the car, and Ruiz said the people inside the car threw two assault rifles and a hand gun out of the window in the area of Osceola Parkway.

Ruiz said when they crossed into Orange County, they asked for mutual aid.

Deputies say five people are in custody after a pursuit.
Deputies say five people are in custody after a pursuit. (Osceola County Sheriff's Office)

The incident ended 28 miles away in Winter Garden at the Westside Townhome complex near West Pointe Villa Boulevard and West Colonial Drive.

“Panic. Absolute panic,” said Jessica Slaughter, a resident of the complex.

She said her children told her they saw a man with a gun while they were outside playing.

"He came out waving a gun and (putting a finger over his lips) and telling the kids to be quiet and not to let them know that he was there," she said.

She said law enforcement showed up immediately afterward.

"Next thing we know, the cops are coming around telling everybody to get inside. Then a little while later -- I wanna say it’s like 15 minutes tops -- they were evacuating us from the entire block," she said.

Slaughter said deputies searched the section of the complex on Stucki Terrace -- even borrowing step ladders to search crawl spaces for suspects.

According to a news release, deputies arrested five of the six people involved: 18-year-old Marquel Gerardo, 18-year-old Andy Mendez, 18-year-old Gavin Persaud, 19-year-old Dallas Francis and 20-year-old Carlos Meza.

Their charges include aggravated assault with a firearm, resisting an officer without violence, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, carrying a concealed firearm and resisting an officer without violence.

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