Polk County

Sheriff: Deputy Shoots Woman Who Lunged at Him With Shovel

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A sheriff's office sergeant fatally shot a woman who lunged toward him with a shovel, officials said.

A caller told the Polk County Sheriff's Office on Thursday afternoon that a woman was walking in and out of traffic along a road near Winter Haven.

Sgt. Sean Speakman, 46, arrived just before 3:30 p.m. and told Jessiram Hweih Rivera, 24, to put down her shovel.

“She was in an obvious state of agitation and she was holding a shovel,” according to an email from the sheriff's office.

As he spoke with Rivera, “she raised the shovel, pointing it towards the sergeant" and started advancing toward him, the email said.

The sergeant told her “multiple times" to put down shovel, and he began backing away, officials said.

“She did not put the shovel down, and continued to advance towards the Sergeant, threatening him with the shovel,'' the email said. The sergeant fired four shots, striking her.

Sheriff's officials say Speakman started CPR, and paramedics took over when they arrived. Rivera was taken to a hospital, but was pronounced dead. Officials have not released her name.

Speakman has been with the agency since 1998, first working in the IT department, and later entering the training academy. He became a deputy in 2005 and was promoted to patrol sergeant in 2018, officials said.

He has been placed on paid adminstrative leave while officials conduct an investigation.

Rivera's criminal history included previous arrests dating back to 2013 on multiple counts of aggravated battery, battery on a law enforcement officer, drug possession and violation of probation, court records show.

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