LAKELAND, Fla. - The message from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was very clear.
"I can tell you right now, I say it every time. You threaten my deputies with a gun, or in this case a knife, we're going to shoot you," he said. "But it was his choice to be shot, not ours. And quite frankly, when you hear his earlier statements, when he was screaming before 'just shoot me,' 'just shoot me,' well he became more intense and he got his wish."
Ryan L. Smith, 44, was shot and killed by deputies Monday afternoon after threatening them with a knife.
The involved deputies were patrolling in an area southwest of Lakeland due to recent burglaries when they noticed Smith's Nissan Altima driving recklessly in the area of Hatcher and Ridge roads at about 2:15 p.m., the sheriff's office said.
They followed the vehicle onto Hatcher Road, then Spring Lane.
"The vehicle acted as if it was going to stop, and about that time it took off and drove through a yard," Judd said.
The suspect jumped from the vehicle and headed into a swampy area.
As deputies approached, Smith emerged from brush with a knife in one hand, his shirt in the other and cuts on his neck, the sheriff's office said.
"He screamed at the deputies, 'shoot me,'" Judd said.
Smith ran again, this time across Government Road and into a backyard on Presidential Lane, where he tried to hide in a shed, the sheriff's office said.
"As deputies got closer, Smith ran from the shed, and jumped over a chain link fence," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "As a deputy jumped over the fence behind Smith, the deputy continued ordering Smith to stop and drop the knife. Smith, who had several directions he could go, began running directly at the deputy while brandishing the knife in a threatening manor, forcing the deputy to shoot him."
Sgt. Eric Daniel, a 11-year veteran of the agency, immediately provided first aid after shooting Smith, Judd said.
Smith was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where he later died.
The weapon Smith had was a folding pocket knife with a blade about five inches long, Judd said.
Methamphetamine, marijuana, and synthetic marijuana were found inside Smith's vehicle, the sheriff's office said.
"At the end of the day, here's one more suspect that had an easy opportunity just to throw the knife down and give up," Judd said. "Instead he choose to threaten deputies, to flee and ultimately he threatened a deputy one last time before we took action to protect ourselves."
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.