Polk Sheriff on shooting felon who fired at officers: 'We shot at him a lot'

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) - A convicted violent felon underwent emergency surgery Wednesday night after a deputy-involved shooting.

Detectives with Polk County's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force performed a traffic stop around 5:15 p.m. in the 2700 block of Golfview Street in Lakeland. The stop was conducted on Francis Perry, age 32.

There is an active warrant for Perry's arrest. Perry, of Winter Haven, had meth in his vehicle, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Polk deputies, Lakes Wales Police Department officers, Haines City Police Department officers and Winter Haven Police Department officers together approached the suspect's car, according to the sheriff's office. The law enforcement officers wore vests with "SHERIFF" printed across the back, deputies said.

Perry fired at the approaching officers, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. "The officers immediately returned fire," deputies said.

"The message is very clear: Don't point your guns and shoot at law enforcement officers if you don't want to be shot," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said. "We shot back because he shot at us - and we shot at him a lot."

Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird said the officers were in a very dangerous situation. "These officers have families to go home to," Bird said.

Lakes Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez said officers risk their lives every day. "These men work together every day. As a task force, they go after the worst of the worst, and tonight they came across him. And thank God they're going home," Velasquez said.

Perry was hit multiple times. The officers started performing CPR and called for medical help. Perry went into emergency surgery at a local hospital. His condition was not immediately available.

The involved officers will be placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol.

Agency policy dictates four separate investigations, deputies said. The sheriff's office Homicide Unit will investigate the shooting. Administrative Investigations will determine whether the officers complied with agency policy. The State Attorney's Office will conduct its own investigation. In addition, the task force members will continue their investigation into drug trafficking.

Perry has admitted to two law enforcement agencies that he's a part of the white supremacist movement, deputies said.

In Lee County he has been charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, robbery, burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Here are his previous Polk County charges: Attempted second-degree murder, resisting arrest, fleeing to elude, impersonating a law enforcement officer, unlawful possession of a handcuff key, possession of firearm by a convicted felon, giving false information to a law enforcement officer during an investigation, grand theft, trespassing, forgery, possession of meth, possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, driving with a suspended or revoked license, vehicle theft and burglary.

In 2014 Perry was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for meth possession and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was released from state prison in March 2016. He absconded during his conditional release, and the warrant was issued for his arrest, deputies said.

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