3 Florida men in custody after attacking FWC officer

Three men accused of attacking a Florida wildlife officer and leaving him for dead at a desolate hunting ground over the weekend have been taken into custody, authorities said Monday. Lazaro Milian, 50, Michel Amalfi, 45, and Rodrigo La Rosa, 27, face multiple charges, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.

The incident happened Saturday night on the grounds of the River Ranch Hunt Club, located next to the Avon Park Bombing Range, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters at a press conference Sunday. The two properties make up about 88,000 acres.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) officer responded to reports of night hunting, or poaching, around 9 p.m. to an area about one hour inside the grounds, Judd said. The officer heard a gunshot and approached the three suspects, officials said. He took their shotguns and attempted to detain the trio. However, Judd said the suspects attacked the officer, beating him and running him over with an ATV before escaping. “After beating him and hitting him with the side-by-side, these men left the officer an hour deep in these woods and didn’t care if he survived,” Judd said.

The injured officer called for help and deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded. Authorities used the GPS tracker on the FWC vehicle to trace the officer’s location. “[The suspects] decided that this was gonna be the night where [the officer] was gonna have to fight for his life, and that’s what he did,” said FWC’s Maj. Roger Young.

The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials said he was later released and was at home recovering.

Nearly 100 law enforcement officers from the FWC, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and six other agencies created a perimeter on the grounds and searched for the suspects, Judd said.

Investigators found a cell phone at the scene and a yellow ATV submerged in the water nearby, officials said. Once determining the phone belonged to Amalfi, investigators learned he had a camp in the area.  Early Sunday, authorities reached the camp, where they found Amalfi and Milian and arrested them. La Rosa, however, remained on the loose. “We’re going to chase you to the ends of the earth or Miami, whichever it is, until we find you or put you in jail for attacking our officer last night,” Judd said at the press conference.

Later Sunday, La Rosa was caught in Hialeah, a city in Miami-Dade County, and arrested.

Updated: January 9, 2021 — 3:26 am