Sheriff's officials in Florida say an MS-13 gang member was killed after he shot a deputy in the face during a confrontation.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told a news conference late Thursday the deputy was in surgery. Thursday was the deputy's 29th birthday.
"Happy birthday to him," Bradshaw said in a news conference, WPTV reports. "He's a lucky man."
The deputy was shot in the cheekbone, Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said a narcotics task force was attempting to serve warrants to search a house and a car in Palm Beach Gardens on Thursday night when the confrontation began. He said the task force had probable cause to arrest the suspect on four separate narcotics buys.
The suspect was shot by other members of the task force who returned fire when the deputy was fired upon. The suspect was later identified as 32-year-old Michael Nieto.
Bradshaw said deputies had hoped to arrest the suspect so he could be questioned by the FBI about the gang's involvement in the drug operation.
"[MS-13] is not the biggest [presence in Palm Beach County], but it’s not the smallest either. It’s something we’ve been working on," Bradshaw said. "And this is one of the pieces of the puzzle we’ve been working on to get into this gang to try to find out what they’re doing because they’re trying to get a stronghold and we’re not going to let them."
Michael Nieto, 32, is the MS-13 gang member shot and killed by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Thursday, according to PBSO. Court records show he was just released from prison last year. @nbc6 https://t.co/VRUdZdbm9R pic.twitter.com/S4H4DXx6iD— Marissa Bagg (@MarissaNBC6) May 17, 2019
Officials said Nieto is a convicted felon with a long history of arrests that include discharging a firearm in public, drug possession, resisting law enforcement, burglary and theft.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.