POINCIANA, Florida — A Florida SWAT team fatally shot a murder suspect early Monday after he barricaded himself inside a house and pulled a gun on them, investigators say.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said his SWAT team first shot Rudy “Shorty” Arenas, 40, with beanbag guns to knock him down in an attempt to disarm him, but when he retrieved his .22-caliber handgun and pointed it at them, three members of the team fatally shot him.
Arenas had a criminal history that included 18 arrests, mostly in Rhode Island, Judd said.
Judd said Arenas stole the gun Sunday from an acquaintance and then called Orlando Rivera, telling him to come see him as he wanted to show Rivera something. Rivera arrived with his wife, Brenda, after picking up food for their children, pulling up next to Arenas as he stood on a suburban street at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Arenas pulled out a wad of cash and started counting it, Judd said. When Orlando Rivera complained that he didn’t have time to watch Arenas count money, Arenas pulled his gun and fired numerous rounds into the minivan, killing Orlando Rivera and seriously wounding his wife, Judd said. She was hospitalized in stable condition.
Judd said Arenas then went to see his daughter, who called 911. He left, and when deputies spotted Arenas again, he pulled in front of a relative’s home and ran inside, locking himself in the bathroom. The SWAT team was brought out.
Judd said Arenas appeared to be on drugs, telling deputies he was on fentanyl. After long negotiations that included Arenas making suicide threats and a robot delivering him a cigarette, he walked out of the bathroom early Monday with his hand in his pocket.
The SWAT team then shot him with beanbags, knocking him down, and his gun fell to the floor. Judd said Arenas picked it up and pointed it at the deputies.
“That was his last bad choice,” Judd said. Deputies opened fire, killing him.
Arenas’s criminal record includes convictions for shoplifting and drug possession in Rhode Island, court records show. He pleaded no contest to felony shoplifting in cases in 2015 and 2012 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield. In 2000, he was found guilty by a state judge of carrying a pistol without a license and drug possession. He pleaded no contest in drug cases in 2003, 2004 and 2009 and 2014, according to court records.
While criticizing attempts in the Florida Senate to end mandatory minimum sentences for many drug crimes, Judd criticized authorities in Rhode Island and Florida.
“He has 16 out-of-state felony and misdemeanor charges, mostly in Rhode Island,” Judd said, referring to Arenas. “They are things like drugs, drugs, more drugs — and he has two Florida arrests. He’s got a total of 18 arrests — this guy’s got a total of 18 arrests. Cocaine, cannabis, delivery of drugs, domestic violence cases. Rudy has been out of control.”
Judd said Orlando Rivera also had a long criminal history in Florida that included a murder charge. In that case, he said, Rivera reached a plea deal and served less than six years in prison.
“I suggest to you,” said Judd, a Republican who has been elected to four four-year terms as sheriff, “had our forgiving criminal justice system in Rhode Island and Florida not been as forgiving as it already is, [and] these guys [would have] been in prison, where it appears they should have been, they would have both been alive today. And they’re both dead.”
A spokesman for Rhode Island’s courts, Craig Berke, said Arenas had served time for his most recent felony, in 2015, and he was wanted on an arrest warrant for violating his probation when he was killed.
Berke also said Judd “appears to be equally as dismayed with Florida’s justice system as he is with Rhode Island’s.”
Through a spokeswoman, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha declined to comment. Neronha was not serving as attorney general during Arenas’ prosecutions.
According to Providence Journal archives, in 2001 a 21-year-old Rudy Arenas told the police he was stabbed in the chest and abdomen at a club on Broad Street in Providence. He walked to the Rhode Island Hospital emergency room on his own and told a nurse what had happened.
A 2004 story reports on a 24-year-old Rudy Arenas getting arrested on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and possession of heroin. The police arrested Arenas after conducting surveillance on his Woonsocket apartment.