LAKE WALES, FL (WTSP) – An illegal immigrant accused of brutally attacking a Lake Wales officer on Monday may have remained in the country following a 2017 arrest partially because the wrong box was checked on his jail processing forms, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
Marcelino Jimenez-Cruz was processed as an American citizen instead of an illegal immigrant, which may be a factor as to why he wasn’t deported, department spokesperson Carrie Horstman said Thursday night.
In addition, Jimenez-Cruz wasn’t cooperating with investigators following his 2017 arrest, stating that his birthplace was unknown, Horstman said.
On Monday, Jimenez-Cruz told Lake Wales police he was born in Mexico.
Officer Colt Black tried to stop Jimenez-Cruz, 41, for riding a bike without a light, Lake Wales police said.
Jimenez-Cruz tried to evade Black, according to an arrest report.
When Black caught up with him, detectives said Jimenez-Cruz started hitting him, biting him and striking him with the officer’s own radio.
“The suspect overpowered him, took him to the ground, just began beating him,” Deputy Chief Troy Schulze said.
Backup arrived and arrested Jimenez-Cruz, who made his first appearance in court Wednesday.
“This guy needs the E-ticket ride out of this country,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday.
Black was released from the hospital Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery.
‘Surprising’ he wasn’t deported…
Judd is outraged because Jiminez-Cruz’ criminal history dates back to 2010, including an arrest last year for domestic violence and fighting a sheriff’s deputy and K-9.
“Are we frustrated? Yes, because we had an easy opportunity to deport this guy and ICE didn’t do that,” Judd said earlier Thursday. “We reported them to ICE and they chose not to. I want to know, why didn’t you deport him?”
Illegal immigrants who are arrested for crimes are not always detained by ICE, Horstman explained. The sheriff’s office sends a daily report to ICE of inmates who are from other countries, but if any of those inmates are not detained, they are released after serving their time.
Jiminez-Cruz was on ICE’s radar for 12 years, the sheriff’s office said.
Judd said Jiminez-Cruz received a “sweetheart plea” in 2017 that was approved by Circuit Judge William Sites, the State Attorney’s Office told 10News.
Sites, when reached by 10News, said Jiminez-Cruz benefited from a negotiated plea agreement that resulted from the early resolution process.
“In these cases it is my usual practice to inquire as to whether the officer(s) or victim(s) have approved the offer,” Sites said in a statement. “It seems from the plea form that I expressed some displeasure with the resolution and added the additional requirements of drug and alcohol sanctions not originally contained in the plea as a condition of my accepting it. It is surprising Mr. Jimenez-Cruz was not deported upon being sentenced.”
Court records show Jiminez-Cruz spent 60 days in prison for the 2017 attack on a deputy. He was still on probation at the time of Monday’s attack.
This time, Judd and Lake Wales police said they’re going to keep following up with ICE to make sure Jiminez-Cruz doesn’t commit another crime in the United States.
Jiminez-Cruz’s other charges include battery and assault, resisting an officer without violence and driving with a revoked license, which he’s been charged with on several occasions.