Arrest made after child riding bicycle struck, killed in Polk County hit-and-run crash

Suspect vehicle located in Hardee County

Surveillance images of a red pickup truck that hit and killed a 9-year-old boy in Polk County on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – After Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called for the arrest of a driver who struck and killed a 9-year-old boy on Friday, the suspect reportedly turned himself over that night.

In a video statement recorded at the scene of the hit-and-run crash, Judd said that the boy, Andres Martinez, was riding a bicycle to his friend’s home when he was struck around 4:45 p.m. along Hutchins Road.

“He is struck by a red four-door pickup truck and killed. You see the child’s bicycle, which was torn in half, in the road. The red pickup truck then continued to flee eastbound on Hutchins Road,” Judd said. “It is beyond comprehension that anyone could hit another person with their vehicle and not stop to render aid, to help, to report what happened, but that’s even 1,000 times worse when it’s a child. A little 9-year-old boy. He was doing what little boys do after school. He was going to one of his friends to play, and now he’s dead, and there’s some deranged person that fled from this dying little boy who was thrown into the neighbor’s yard.”

Around 10:30 p.m., 45-year-old Gilbert Almaguer, of Bowling Green, called the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office to report he was a passenger in the truck at the time of the crash. Hardee County deputies and Bowling Green police responded to his residence and located the truck, notifying Polk. Judd’s deputies, showing up with pieces of the suspect vehicle that had been left at the scene, confirmed that they matched the damage on the truck.

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Now at the Bowling Green Police Department, Almaguer told investigators that the truck was registered in his mother’s name and that he had let someone else drive it because he was tired and didn’t have a valid license, claiming he did not know what the truck hit, thinking it was a mailbox or a post. Almaguer said this driver got out of the vehicle near some railroad tracks, leaving him to drive the rest of the way home, and in general could not provide an address or a phone number for this person.

After asking if he was free to go and being taken back to his residence, Almaguer reportedly approached a Polk deputy while a search and seizure warrant was being obtained for the truck.

According to an affidavit, Almaguer of his own free will stated he was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle when the child was fatally struck.

Almaguer is to face a charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving death on public or private property without rendering aid. He was booked into the Hardee County jail late Friday and will be transferred to Polk County at a later date, according to the sheriff’s office.

Note: This map depicts the general area of this crash and not necessarily its exact location.

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