LAKELAND — The smell of fresh bread mingled with gun smoke Thursday morning after a suspected carjacker was shot by police on Interstate Road, just past Pepperidge Farm, the Lakeland Police Department said.
Police said Terrese Colston, 28, of Tampa, was shot once in the leg after fleeing from, and shooting at, an LPD officer who identified him as the suspect in an earlier carjacking.
Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, police responded to an armed carjacking on the 1300 block of East Lemon Street, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said. Edwin Lemuel Soto told police he was waiting for a friend in in his 2000 Mazda 626 when Colston pointed a gun at him and ordered him out of the vehicle. Colston then sped out of the cul-de-sac in Soto’s Mazda, he told police.
At 12:43 a.m., Officer Alex Rethwisch,a three-year veteran with LPD, was responding to another call when he spotted the suspected vehicle near Providence Road and Interstate Drive, an industrial area along Interstate 4 and home to Keiser University and businesses including Pepperidge Farm and Mission Foods.
"The officer observed the vehicle, being observant, doing his job," Giddens said from the scene of the shooting. "He flipped around on him. The suspect obviously realized that and the officer did his job."
Police said Colston fled the pursuing Rethwisch, who blew the front tires on a curb, fleeing into a field before Rethwisch could even turn on his emergency lights. Colston then lost control of the vehicle and bailed, running with Rethswich still underway in his cruiser. Rethswich, armed with a taser, began chasing on foot and the suspect fired two rounds in the officer’s direction, police said. Rethswich returned fire, hitting Colston once in the leg.
"The suspect went down," Giddens said. "Our officer was able to take the suspect into custody and immediately began to give first aid."
Police said the suspect was given first aid at the scene and transported to a nearby hospital. He is being treated at Lakeland Regional Health. The officer, Giddens said, was "slightly" injured, receiving minor injuries to the left arm and forehead and was treated on scene. Per department policy, he has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Police believe Colston’s gun, a revolver, malfunctioned after he fired at the officer and threw the gun over a nearby fence. The revolver was recovered with a damaged barrel and found to be inoperable. Police believe shrapnel from Colston’s shots hit Rethwisch, causing his injuries.
Police said "numerous" felony charges against Colston are pending.
Police had few details when Giddens addressed media at the scene about four hours after the incident occurred, but said Colston lives in Tampa, is a convicted felon and should not have been in possession of a firearm.
Polk County Jail records show Colston has a history of violent crime and drug charges, with more than a dozen arrests since 2008 including 13 felony charges and 32 misdemeanor charges.
Training, discipline and luck kept citizens and Rethwisch safe, according to Giddens.
"I think that officers, when they find themselves in these situations, I think there is a bit of luck that comes into it, but also, I think it has to do with our training. The courage and the discipline these officers have protected him. It’s a dangerous profession," Giddens said. "This was a violent confrontation where a citizen could’ve lost their lives. We don’t know how many people were unnecessarily endangered by this suspect’s actions, firing at an officer back toward this road. Our officer was lucky."