A Lakeland man who “without provocation” shot at two police officers — wounding one — was critically injured after the officers returned fire Tuesday, police said.
Officer Doug Mills, 36, a motorcycle officer with 5½ years on the force, was shot in the upper right arm, police said. He was treated and released from Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
The suspect, who was not yet identified by police, was struck multiple times in the shootout near North Lake Wire Park. He was in critical condition at Lakeland Regional.
The suspect, who was carrying four guns, was wanted on a Polk County warrant of resisting arrest without violence, police said. The officers were attempting to arrest him when the shooting began about 10:30 a.m., police said.
The confrontation took place at 800 N. Florence Ave., at Parker Street and just east of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, police said. A playground is across the street.
Mills and Sgt. Jeff Gary, 54, a 22-year veteran of the department, responded after receiving a tip from another officer that the suspect was at the park, police said. The man fit the description of the suspect, so the officers began to approach him, police said.
The suspect “proceeded to walk across the street,” police spokesman Gary Gross told reporters. “As he’s walking, he’s making a movement inside of his shirt.”
Police ordered the man to put his hands up, Gross said.
The suspect then pulled out a weapon from the front waistline under his shirt, aimed at Mills and shot multiple rounds “without provocation,” Police Chief Larry Giddens told reporters. The officers returned fire, the police chief said.
Giddens said the officers had no reason to believe the suspect was dangerous. He said the department has had dealings with the man before.
“I’m disgusted with the sense of violence that we’re seeing here, with gun violence occurring.” Giddens said. “But I’m very proud of our officers. They responded well, their training kicked in and they were able to end this confrontation very quickly.”
Giddens said the officers may have stopped the suspect from hurting somebody else.
“Obvously, somebody armed with four guns had some intention to do something today,” Giddens said, “and I thank God that our officers were able to intervene and stop him.”