LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities are investigating a shootout between a 13-year-old boy and Lakeland police on Wednesday.
Police were responding to a drive-by shooting in the Simpson Park area when they spotted the suspects’ vehicle.
After a short chase, three people ran away from the car, leaving it in ‘drive’ to roll down the street. Police dashboard camera footage showed the car, which apparently belonged to one of the suspects’ mothers, side-swiping a passing driver.
Lakeland police alleged a 13-year-old boy was running through Carrington Place Apartments with a gun in his hand. Both police body camera and security camera footage showed the teenager turn the corner of a building and fire, allegedly striking the officer in the foot.
The officer was identified as Jamie Smith. Smith was a former New York Police Department officer who was recruited by Lakeland police in 2021.
Smith was taken to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. He is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.
“What Officer Smith did last night was nothing short of heroic,” Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said during Thursday’s news conference. “I’m very proud he performed the way he did, that we knew he would when we hired him.”
Police reportedly lost sight of the teen while pursuing him. The boy was accused of jumping out of the bushes and firing at police for a second time.
The teenager was shot by officers several times in the legs and stomach, Judd said. The teenager was transported to Tampa General Hospital and is expected to survive his injuries.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the two other drive-by shooting suspects were a 14-year-old boy and 19-year-old Jermaine Julian.
All three teenagers are affiliated with a gang, according to police, and were on probation at the time of the shooting. Two of the males were on probation for participating in the same robbery incident. A condition of that probation forbade them from speaking with each other.
“Even though his chronological age is 13, he’s a hardened criminal who will shoot you,” Judd said of the shooting suspect. “Because if you’ll shoot the cops, you’ll shoot anybody.”
A second gun was found in the abandoned car. Deputies determined that both guns were stolen, likely from vehicles.
“When you leave your gun in the car, they’re stealing it, and then shooting up neighborhoods,” Judd said. “They’re shooting police officers with your gun, because you’re not responsible with how you care for that gun.”
The group was accused of smoking marijuana and cruising Lakeland “looking for someone to kill,” according to Judd.
“They tried to shoot someone last night,” Judd said. “The police standing in the gap got shot keeping that neighborhood safe.”