TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The rookie Tampa Police Department officer who tried to stop a shooting rampage suspect and had to dodge bullets is back on the job a week after the scary ordeal, Chief Brian Dugan announced Thursday.
The officer, who the department would not identify, has been on the force less than a year, Dugan said. He is in his mid 20’s, the chief said.
Last Thursday, he attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Antonio Cruz Ortiz.
Ortiz, of Tampa, is accused of going on a shooting spree in Hillsborough County and shooting at nearly two dozen people. Several people were hit but no one died, officials said.
“There’s no doubt he was trying to kill him,” Dugan said about the officer. “And if he was maybe a better shot we might be attending a funeral instead of a press conference. And that’s not being dramatic. I was there and saw the bullet holes through the front windshield, and saw the back window shot out,” he said, referring to the police cruiser that was struck by multiple bullets.
Dugan revealed a map that showed at least a dozen locations where Ortiz fired at people.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Office’s deputies responded to many of the scenes and aided in the investigation.
“I think like everyone else, I was angry that somebody would just go on a shooting spree with no intent, at the same time extremely grateful because if he would have struck all 23 victims he was shooting at, we would have had 23 homicides in a 24-hour period,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said when asked about the rampage.
Chronister lauded the partnership between his agency and the police department.
8 On Your Side obtained court paperwork that described, in detail, the extent of Ortiz’s actions.
“At approximately 1925 hours at Fountain Mist Dr. and Tadpole Lane, the listed victims were returning from dinner to the place they were staying at for the evening. Upon exiting the vehicle, the victims observed a red in color SUV rapidly pull in the parking lot. The defendant exited the red vehicle and began yelling something at them in Spanish. The victims then saw the defendant reach into his vehicle and retrieve a black in color assault-style weapon. The defendant then pointed the weapon in the direction of the victim and fired one shot,” an arrest report says.
Ortiz then went on to shoot at other people throughout the city and county, officials said. He even shot at an eyewitness who followed him to track his movements for police, the paperwork reveals.
His actions came to a stop when he fired at that Tampa officer.
Newly-released body camera video shows the aftermath, when the officer was tended to by fellow officers. He was bleeding from the arm but appeared to be okay.
Moments later, the injured officer ran into an apartment complex to help find the suspect.
“That’s why we call ourselves the guardians of the city, where we’re knowingly put ourselves in harm’s way to prevent someone else from being shot,” the chief said.
Dugan showed photographs of items found inside Ortiz’s vehicle. At least eight guns, ammo, cash and drugs were recovered, he said.
Ortiz remains in jail. Court paperwork shows a doctor has been appointed to conduct a mental health evaluation on Ortiz.