Florida police officer shot by 13-year-old in gunfight: officials
A routine response to a drive-by shooting turned into a dangerous chase, followed by a gunfight that resulted in a 13-year-old boy wounded and an officer injured. According to officials, the incident took place in the suburban town of Lakeland, situated between Tampa and Orlando, Central Florida. The minor engaged in a shoot-out with law enforcement after evading a car chase and hiding from the pursuing officers.
The episode initiated when Officer Jamie Smith intercepted the suspect’s car in the wake of receiving intel regarding a drive-by shooting that occurred in a local park. The three occupants of the car exited after Smith halted the vehicle, after which they fled the scene in different directions, leading to a manhunt-like pursuit throughout the neighborhood. As Smith was in pursuit on foot, he spotted the 13-year-old suspect carrying a firearm down the sidewalk near an apartment complex.
Despite being commanded to halt, the minor ran towards the complex. When Smith turned the corner, the assailant was waiting in ambush and engaged in gunfire, shooting at least one round from a handgun, after which the officer retaliated. The suspect then fled the scene, but Smith called for backup and continued his pursuit. Other officers later tracked the minor’s location, attempting to apprehend him, which resulted in an exchange of fire.
Although law enforcement was successful in containing the suspect, an officer was wounded in the process, culminating in the apprehension of the young teenager. Investigation further revealed that the same minor had been detained previously in January regarding a car burglary. He was found to be trafficking a stolen handgun at that time. Authorities, in the wake of their investigation, are now petitioning the prosecutors to charge him as an adult, given the nature of the offense.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, whose agency is responsible for the ongoing investigation, had emphasized the severity of the crime, stating, “He has no regard for life. None. Zero, he may be 13 years old chronologically, but he’s a seasoned criminal willing to shoot it out with cops.” At the time of reporting, the Associated Press is withholding the suspect’s identity due to age concerns. However, one of the other individuals in the suspect’s car has been taken into custody. The offending teen has since been treated and released from Tampa General Hospital.
As the residents of Lakeland come to terms with the alarming escalation in criminal behavior, the incident has once again shone a light on the scourge of firearms at large in the county. Despite numerous attempts by the state authorities, the proliferation of firearms in neighboring Florida continues to pose a significant threat to public safety.