Man attacks Fla. officer with machete; suspect fatally shot

By Jerome Burdi
The Sun-Sentinel
Related: Cal. officer discusses day he shot machete-carrying man

WEST PALM BEACH A man closing in fast on police with a machete in his hand was shot at least twice and killed about 6 p.m. Wednesday on Summit Boulevard between Interstate 95 and the railroad tracks, police said.

It is unclear why Vladimir Bernal Niellas, 45, of West Palm Beach, lunged at officers, forcing one to fire, Capt. Pat Maney said.

A citizen called police and reported a shirtless man swinging around a machete headed eastbound alongside Dreher Park where people walked their dogs and children played.

Joanne Jaimedes, 55, was driving home when she first noticed the man about 100 feet behind her. The police pulled up to him and drew their guns, screaming at the man to put the machete down, she said.

"It was up over his head and the officers kept telling him to put the weapon down," Jaimedes said. "He charged at them with that thing up over his head. ... Then I heard the 'Pop, pop' and saw his head fall behind the police car."

Police would not immediately release the name of the officer who fired the shots but said he'd been with West Palm Beach police for about five years and may have worked with another agency before that. Maney said he believed Wednesday was the officer's first shooting.

When the call went out, officers with stun guns were sought, Maney said. The first two officers who arrived were not issued stun guns, but that didn't matter.

"If you're being charged by an individual carrying a machete, that's not a Taser situation," Maney said. "That's a deadly force situation."

A person armed with a knife within 20 to 25 feet is considered within a lethal range that can be closed in seconds, Maney said.

"The subject was rapidly closing distance on the officer and the officer was forced to discharge his firearm," he said.

The officer will be placed on standard paid administrative leave.

Wednesday's shooting was at least the fourth involving an officer in Palm Beach County this year.

Last week , the Boynton Beach SWAT team shot a man who lunged at them.

In June, a sheriff's deputy shot an unarmed man in the head west of Lantana after an "encounter." In April, deputies shot two suspected bank robbers west of Boynton Beach, killing oshot a manne who allegedly grabbed a deputy's gun. The other was allegedly armed and turning toward an oncoming deputy. Niellas did not have a criminal record, according to state records.

"It looked like that guy either was not in his right mind or was trying to die," Jaimedes said.

Copyright 2007 Sun-Sentinel Company

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