Rape suspect shot dead by Lakeland Police detectives
(The Lakeland Ledger) LAKELAND, Fla. – Lakeland police detectives on Thursday shot and killed a rape suspect they were chasing past a packed Socrum Loop Road restaurant.
Two detectives shot David Cuevas, 42, as he reached into his waistband, turned toward them and pulled out a pistol, said Sgt. Gary Gross, spokesman for the Lakeland Police Department.
The shooting happened about 5:40 pm. on the sidewalk in front of Five Guys restaurant, 4660 N. Socrum Loop Road. No bystanders were injured.
Neither of the detectives who shot Cuevas — Mike Lewis, 28, and Nick Pollice, 33 — was hurt. Lakeland police hired Lewis and Pollice in November 2011.
“They saved each other’s lives, as far as I am concerned,” Gross said.
Police said Cuevas was wanted on an arrest warrant issued in January for charges of armed sexual battery and armed kidnapping, both involving a Lakeland woman with whom he had had a relationship.
Cuevas, whose last known address is in Philadelphia, fled to Pennsylvania, where he has family, according to LPD, and he was arrested there on the Lakeland warrant.
But he was released from custody on $35,000 bail, according to LPD. Police said they did not know details of his release.
“He was allowed, unfortunately, to bond out,” Gross said. “He should not have been released.”
Gross said after Cuevas got out of jail, he started texting the woman’s phone, saying that he was driving back to Lakeland and wanted to meet with her. He texted her: “I can make all the pain go away.”
“To me,” Gross said, “that’s clear he wanted to kill her or kill himself.”
Once he started texting the woman, she called police, who took the phone and continued to text with Cuevas, persuading him to meet at Lake Gibson Park, where the couple used to go.
Even though Cuevas apparently bonded out of jail legally in Philadelphia, he became wanted again when he left that area in violation of his release terms, Gross said.
When police pulled up to the park, Cuevas ran out of the Nissan Xterra he drove down from Pennsylvania and continued down the sidewalk, Gross said. As Cuevas turned with the gun, Lewis and Pollice fired their weapons multiple times, Gross said. One detective fired a rifle, and the other fired a handgun.
Although detectives said they didn’t hear him shoot, Gross said, it appears Cuevas accidentally shot himself in his upper-right thigh as he was pulling the gun out of his waistband.
Detectives were cautious because they knew he was accused of using a gun in the rape and kidnapping case, Gross said.
That incident happened in late January at the Suburban Extended Stay, 4335 Williamstown Blvd. in Lakeland.
According to an LPD arrest report, the woman involved moved from Florida a year ago to Philadelphia, which is where the two started their relationship.
The couple moved back to Florida and into an extended-stay motel room but broke up soon afterward, the report said. Trying to patch up the relationship, Cuevas came over to her hotel room about 8:20 pm. Jan. 26, but she didn’t want to get back together.
“(Cuevas) … advised that he had a gift for her, and then pulled out a handgun and a knife, shoved her to the bed (and raped her),” the report said.
A motel clerk told investigators she called 911 after she saw Cuevas push the woman onto the bed. Officers arrived at the motel, but Cuevas was gone. After that, the woman filed an injunction against Cuevas.
“She was scared to death,” Gross said. “She didn’t want to be hunted.”
[ Ben Brasch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7590. Follow Ben on Twitter @ben_brasch. ]