On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a call from Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center regarding a woman who was brought in with a gunshot wound to the leg. Deputies responded to the hospital to interview the victim, who told them initially that two unknown suspects broke into her home at a mobile home park on New Tampa Highway in Lakeland and shot her.
Deputies responded to the mobile home park and began their investigation. They quickly learned that the woman lives with a man who local residents said was a drug dealer, and they found narcotics and a handgun at the scene. Several park residents were interviewed, who gave deputies two different names – “Mario” and “Romeo” – of the man who lives in the trailer with the victim.
During a search of the mobile home park, deputies located the man hiding in the maintenance garage. He also gave them a false name of “Mario,” but a check of his fingerprints with a rapid-ID scanner revealed his true identity as Elias Marte, DOB 04/16/1971, who has felony probation and parole violation warrants for his arrest in South Dakota and New York.
Detectives interviewed Marte, who told them that the victim accidentally shot herself, and he fled because of his out-of-state warrants. Detectives interviewed the victim again, who said Marte accidentally shot her while trying to eject a round from the gun, and that she lied about unknown suspects shooting her so that Marte would not get into trouble. She got a ride to the hospital from family members. The family members told deputies that the victim said she was shot by two suspects who tried to rob her, but they suspected Marte shot the victim, which is why he fled the scene.
In Marte’s backpack, deputies recovered two baggies containing 47 total grams of cocaine, a baggie containing 9 grams of Meth, two baggies containing marijuana, a digital scale, several empty baggies, a Smith and Wesson .38 special revolver, an extended .40 caliber handgun magazine, and several .40 caliber rounds.
Marte was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:
- Armed trafficking in cocaine (F-L)
- Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (F-2)
- Possession of meth (F-3)
- Culpable negligence inflicting harm (M-1)
- Possession of paraphernalia (M-1)
Marte’s criminal history includes assault and perjury, and parole violations from South Dakota and New York, for which he has warrants. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in South Dakota in 2015, and sentenced to 96 months in prison. He was convicted of first degree assault with a weapon with intent to cause serious injury in New York in 2005.
“This drug dealer, illegally in possession of a firearm, was hiding in Polk County, Florida with warrants from two different states. The victim is lucky she wasn’t hurt worse. We will do everything we can to hold this violent felon accountable for his crimes in Polk County, and make sure he answers to South Dakota and New York for his outstanding warrants.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff