Manuel Almeida is probably lucky to be alive today. If it weren’t for the restraint of a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy, he might have been shot as he was approaching her on a street in Daytona North Thursday, moments after he’d already fired a round from a .22 rifle.
“Sheriff’s Office. Drop the gun. Sheriff’s Office. Drop the gun! Drop the gun!,” deputy Jeniffer Prevatt screamed as she walked toward Almeida on Mahogany Boulevard, between Forest Park and Lancewood streets. “Drop the fucking gun!” meanwhile cars were passing by him and the deputy. He would later claim to the deputy that he had neither seen nor heard her.
Almeida, 72, a sex offender who’d served 10 years in prison and was prohibited from owning or wielding firearms, would later tell Prevatt that he was in fear of something or someone he did not identify. “I could see that we were in trouble. We are being kidnapped more or less,” he told Prevatt. It isn;t clear what he meant by “we,” or what he meant by kidnappers. He referred toi people in a general sense. His neighbors reported to deputies that he had been acting strange, suggesting that he was having a mental health episode.
Prevatt didn’t know all that when she was along the wood line on Mahogany Boulevard, responding to reports that Almeida had been yelling and brandishing his rifle at passersby, and now seeing stumbling and destroying a mailbox that didn’t belong to him.
Prevatt, the 2019 Crime Stoppers Officer of the Year, was on Hickory Street when she got the dispatched to the scene at 8:26 a.m. She spotted Almeida 130 yards from her. Looking through binoculars, she saw the rifle. She backed up her car to Hickory, stepped out, and approached him with her own Ar-15-type rifle.
“While looking through binoculars I clearly identified and observed the male push over the entire mailbox at 4545 Mahogany Boulevard and it fell to the ground,” Prevatt reported, describing Almeida–whose identity she did not yet know–point the gun toward the ground, “He appeared to become more agitated and was throwing his left hand up in the air as if annoyed or mad. He then began to walk into the roadway on Mahogany Boulevard with this firearm still in his hand. At this time, I engaged the male and began to close the distance between me and him as there were vehicles that were traveling on Mahogany Boulevard and this male’s intentions were unknown and I feared for the safety of the public.”
The deputy screamed commands at him repeatedly, which he seemed to ignore. Then it got more alarming for the deputy and, though he didn’t seem to know it, for Almeida, who could likely have been shot at any point in the sequence Prevatt described, since he was also placing her in danger: “This male was refusing to comply with my lawful commands and remained armed with the rifle and never acknowledged me,” she reported in his arrest affidavit. “This male would face towards me and then away from me several times. He then discharged a single round from this rifle while he was standing in the area of the west bound land of travel on Mahogany Boulevard. The sound of the bullet being discharged appeared to sound like that of a .22 caliber rifle to me through my training and experience. When this round was fired the subject wasn’t facing me and his body was blocking my view of the firearm. After this male fired the round, he turned towards me and began to walk towards my direction with the rifle in his right hand and the barrel pointed down at the ground. The estimated distance he was from me was approximately a little under one hundred yards as he began advancing towards me.”
Prevatt continued to yell commands at Almeida to drop the gun. He kept approaching. “I estimated that he advanced towards me for approximately ten to fifteen yards before he turned around and began to walk back away from me and then walked into an area on the north-east corner of Mahogany Boulevard and Rosewood Street still armed with the rifle,” she reported.
Numerous other deputies and supervisors were swarming to the scene. Prevatt joined up with one of the deputies as Almeida walked out of their sight, and they were concerned for residents’ safety. With the assistance of a sergeant and another deputy, they located Almeida again. “We then began to seek options for hard cover behind a tree and gave multiple loud announcements for the male to surrender,” Prevatt wrote. “He was refusing to comply with our commands. After approximately seven minutes of commands the male surrendered, and he was secured in handcuffs. During this time, he continued to face towards and away from us and would conceal his hands from our view.”
Almeida claimed the rifle had been handcuffed to his wrist. But deputies found the a black Mossberg 802 Plinkster .22 caliber bolt action rifle with the safety off somewhere in the nearby brush, loaded with five live rounds.
Deputies checked on nearby residents’ welfare. “They stated that Manuel frequently comes to their address to obtain clean drinking water as he is their neighbor,” Prevatt reported. One of the residents said that Almeida “came onto her property today acting strange, stumbling around, and stating someone jumped him.” His latest booking photo at the county jail shows him with a black streak under his right eye, as if he’d been struck there.
The neighbor explained to deputies that he’d acquired the rifle from a friend last fall, ostensibly to shoot something that had been attacking his cat. He’d also built a target range, he told his neighbor, and fire the rifle there, warning his neighbors first.
“All I’m guilty of is picking up a girl’s rifle for her and going to bring it back to her house,” Almeida told the deputies when he was placed under arrest. He said he never fired the rifle that morning, nor had seen the deputy or heard her commands, only to then say that he’d fired the round toward the sky–when he feared he was being kidnapped.
Deputies checked Almeida’s residence at 4524 Mahogany Boulevard to ensure no one there was hurt, to care for the cat, and, after obtaining a search warrant, to search the place, where they found 65 live rounds of .22 caliber ammunition in a closet.
Almeida faces three second-degree felonies, including two counts of possessing a firearm or ammunition by a convicted felon, and a count of displaying a firearm during the commission of a felony. He also faces four misdemeanors. He is being held at the Flagler County jail on $54,500 bond.
“DFC Prevatt showcased the extensive training our Deputies go through to diffuse a hostile situation while using the physical and virtual equipment available to them to ensure the safety of themselves, other Deputies, and the public,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “I also commend the citizens that called in ‘seeing something, saying something’ of the subject’s reckless behavior. The actions of our deputies and the callers likely prevented a more serious incident from occurring.”