Man shot by Lakeland police officers was working overnight construction job, neighbor says

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Lakeland’s police chief said Sunday morning, hours after a fatal officer-involved shooting, that he did not know yet why the man killed was inside a construction site on I-4.

“The vehicle appeared to be deliberately parked where it was at,” said Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia. “You would have to take particular attempts to get in and close yourself into that area. We certainly do not know at this point in the investigation why the subject was there.”

The Florida Department of Transportation is rebuilding a CSX bridge in the area of I-4 near Kathleen Road to widen the interstate, a spokesperson for CSX said.

The 61-year old man’s neighbor told 8 On Your Side, the man was at the state-run construction site for work.

“He was monitoring a pump at nighttime. That pump needs to continue to run so if it runs out of fuel or malfunctions, that was his reason for being out there,” said the neighbor, who did not want to be identified.

He described the man killed as a humble, hard-working man.

News Channel 8 is not identifying the name of the man killed until it is confirmed by law enforcement and/or family.

The neighbor said the man brought a gun to his overnight shifts at the construction site after he saw men wandering around the construction site.

“He started bringing his gun out there because he was fearing for his own safety. He said it’s the middle of the night. He’s like, ‘I don’t know what kind of crazy people are out here. I’m in the middle of the highway. There’s all kinds of people passing’,” said the neighbor..

According to Chief Garcia, officers were called to the construction zone Sunday at 2:05 a.m. after someone from a state agency noticed a suspicious vehicle in video from cameras used to monitor that area.

“As they approached the vehicle, the officers noticed the subject inside the vehicle arm himself. There was a series of shots. Preliminarily, at this point, we believe the subject did fire. Our officers returned fire,” said Chief Garcia.

The man inside the vehicle was killed.

The Lakeland Police Department has identified the officers who fired their weapons as Tammy Hathcock, a 15-year veteran officer with LPD, and Garrett Zeigler, a 9-year law enforcement veteran who has served with LPD for the past five months.

Officers in the department do not currently wear body cameras but they will sometime next year, according to a department spokesperson.

“I mean it’s sad. Only God and those two officers know the truth of, really, what happened out there,” said the neighbor.

Lakeland police did not say whether the man killed had a criminal record.

More information on this case could be released in the coming days.

The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave as four independent investigations are underway.

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