A man in full armor and with an automatic weapon allegedly went to a shooting “furiously” early in the morning in Polk County, Florida, Sunday, killing four people, including a mother and her baby, and wounding an 11-year-old. old girl before she gave up and told police he had a high content of drugs, authorities said.
The shooting took place before dawn at two adjacent homes on the same property near Lakeland, Florida, about 35 miles east of Tampa. A sheriff’s lieutenant two miles away heard volley with automatic shot, responded to the scene and sent radio for backup, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference.
Grady said deputies 9 hours earlier received a call from 911 from the same home and that a woman reported a strange man parked near her residence who allegedly told her he was there because “God sent me here to talk to one of your daughters. ” He said deputies responded to the 911 call within six minutes, but the man was nowhere to be found.
The sheriff said the same man returned to the home around 4:30 a.m. Sunday and allegedly triggered a blockade of lethal shots.
He said that as deputies approached the home where the shooting took place, they saw a truck on fire and a path leading from the road to the house lit by LED road lights.
“By the time we approached, we saw someone who was fully equipped with body armor and looked like he was ready to engage us all in an active shooting game situation,” Grady said, adding that deputies initially not so the man holds a gun.
He said the suspect immediately withdrew into the house, and deputies immediately heard another volley with automatic shots, followed by a woman screaming and baby crying.
Grady said a sheriff’s lieutenant initially tried to enter through the front door, but it was blocked. As the lieutenant went to the back of the house, a shot erupted.
“The suspect shot at our lieutenant. Our lieutenant returned and backed out of the house,” Grady said.
He said three deputies in front of the house were pinned by shots aimed at them and that other officers returned fire, giving the captured deputies time to get out of the way.
“I can tell you that there were at least dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds fired this morning between our suspect and our deputies directing fire back at him,” Grady said.
No police officers were injured in the incident, Grady said.
He said the shooting slowed down and the suspect, who was shot once in the shooting, walked out of the home with his hands up and surrendered.
“When someone chooses to give up, we take them peacefully into custody,” Grady said. “If he had given us the opportunity, we would have shot him up a lot. But he did not because he was a coward.”
Grady said that after the suspect was arrested, deputies and Lakeland police officers heard noises coming from inside the house, shouting orders for people to come out. He said deputies briefly entered the homes and found an 11-year-old girl shot several times, but still conscious.
“She looks our deputies in the eye and said, ‘There are three more dead people in the house,'” Grady said.
He said deputies removed the girl from the home and she was transported to Tampa General Hospital, where she underwent surgery Sunday morning and is expected to survive.
Fearing that the home was trapped, a robot was sent into the house to look for explosives, he said. Deputies then entered the home and discovered three people fatally shot, a man and a mother rocking an infant in her arms.
Deputies found the fourth victim, a woman who was shot dead in a nearby house on the same property.
The names of the victims and the suspected perpetrator were not immediately released.
Grady said an initial investigation, which he warned could be changed, indicates the suspect is not connected to the people he allegedly killed and injured.
“As far as we can see from this moment, he is not from this county or urban area,” Grady said. “At this early stage in the investigation, we do not know how he ended up there or why he ended up there. But he showed up twice in nine hours.”
After being remanded in custody, the suspect allegedly told deputies that he is a “survivalist” and that he had used methamphetamine.
“This guy admitted to us that he took these drugs before going on this active shooting game,” Grady said.
He said that when police in Lakeland took the suspect to a hospital to be treated, a fight broke out and the suspect allegedly tried to grab an officer’s gun.
“They had to fight with him again at the Lakeland emergency room,” Grady said. “Once we got him tied up, they gave him medicine to make him unable to fight any longer, and they could continue to treat him.”